Nobel Prize-winning scientist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Alisa Molotova/Getty Images(CAMBRIDGE, England) — Stephen Hawking, an award-winning physicist and influential author, died early Wednesday morning, a family spokesman told ABC News. He was 76.

Hawking, whose books included “A Brief History of Time” and “The Universe in a Nutshell,” was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1962.

The family did not disclose the cause of death, but said he “died peacefully” at his home in Cambridge, England.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” the family said in a statement. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

Hawking leaves behind his wife, Lucy, and two sons, Robert and Tim. They thanked his fans who have “been by Professor Hawking’s side –- and supported him -– throughout his life.”

Hawking was considered one of the leading voices in science because of his extensive research and work related to understanding the universe.

He made several major discoveries throughout his career, and once said said his greatest achievement was his discovery that black holes are not entirely black.

“I think my greatest achievement will be my discovery that black holes are not entirely black,” he said, adding how that discovery would be critical to “understanding how paradoxes between quantum mechanics and general relativity can be resolved.”

In a 2010 interview with ABC’s “World New Tonight,” Hawking was asked about the best fatherly advice he’d given.

“Here are the most important pieces of advice that I’ve passed on to my children,” he said. “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember is it rare and don’t throw it away.”

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