Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

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LONDON (AP) - World renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. That's according to a University of Cambridge spokesman.

The vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge is praising Stephen Hawking as an inspiration to millions.

Professor Stephen Toope said the 76-year-old, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, early Wednesday, will be missed all over the world.

Toope said that Hawking's "exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularization of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy."

In a statement, Hawking's children Lucy, Robert and Tim called him "a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

The actor who played Stephen Hawking in a film about the scientist's life has described him as the funniest man he ever met.

Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking "The Theory of Everything," paid tribute to Hawking on Wednesday.

Redmayne says: "We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet."

The British actor played the mathematical genius across decades of physical degeneration -- all under Hawking's watchful gaze.

Redmayne said at the time of the film that Hawking wanted to live life to the full -- and that he always had a glint in his eye.

The best-known theoretical physicist of his time, Hawking wrote so lucidly of the mysteries of space, time and black holes that his book, "A Brief History of Time," became an international best-seller, making him one of science's biggest celebrities since Albert Einstein.

Even though his body was attacked by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, when Hawking was 21, he stunned doctors by living with the usually fatal illness for more than 50 years.

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