‘Rare genius’: Stephen Hawking remembered across the world

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From astronauts to world leaders, tributes have poured in for Stephen Hawking, the British physicist and author who has died aged 76.

Theresa May praised his “brilliance” and contribution to our understanding of the universe during prime minister’s questions.

She told MPs: “Prof Hawking’s exceptional contributions to science and our knowledge of the universe speak for themselves. As his children have said, his courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said Hawking “inspired the world” but also praised the way he had campaigned for the NHS.

He told the Commons that the cosmologist was “a passionate campaigner for the National Health Service. And he said: ‘I have received excellent medical attention in Britain, I believe in universal healthcare and I’m not afraid to say so.’”The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, with whom Hawking repeatedly clashed over funding and changes to the NHS, tweeted that his adversary was a “defining force in the world of science”. Hunt added: “We didn’t agree on everything, but he was still a hero to me as one of our greatest ever thinkers.”Tim Peake, who spent more than six months in space in 2016, said Hawking had inspired generations to “look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe”.Nasa tweeted: “His theories unlocked the universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. … May you keep flying like superman in microgravity.”Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, said Hawking’s “grit and tenacity inspired people all over the world”.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, quoted one of Hawking’s most memorable remarks about how, despite having motor neurone disease, he did not give up.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, was one of many to highlight Hawking’s sense of humour. “It’s sad to lose him but what a memory we will have of him,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme on Wednesday.

The veteran US talkshow host Larry King also gave an example of Hawking’s humour in his tribute.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, was one of the first to respond to news of Hawking’s death, saying tweeting: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit.”

The University of Cambridge vice-chancellor, Prof Stephen Toope, said Hawking was an inspiration to millions. “Prof Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions.”

The Planetary Society wrote: “Farewell to a beautiful mind”, while the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson shared a photo of himself and Hawking. “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake,” he wrote.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, also tweeted her appreciation.

Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, wrote: “We lost a great one today.”

Many scientists shared details of their encounters with Hawking over the years.

Prof James Hartle, who collaborated with Hawking to develop the Hartle-Hawking wave function, said: “What was unique about him was that he had a marvellous ability to see through all the clutter in physics and to see what the central points are.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “His whole story is one of triumph over adversity and who inspired a lot of people including me.”

The broadcaster and physicist Prof Brian Cox said Hawking’s contribution to science was timeless.The Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell remembered Hawking’s determination to deliver a lecture despite struggling to speak.

The Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield lamented his death, saying: “Genius is so fine and rare. Goodbye Prof Hawking. You inspired us all.” Fellow astronaut Scott Kelly said Hawking’s death was “a loss for all humanity”.

Tributes also came from the entertainment industry.

Errol Morris made the 1991 film A Brief History of Time, which was based on concepts addressed in Hawking’s famous book. Morris wrote that Hawking was “a truly fabulous human being”.

The Foo Fighters said he was a “fucking legend”, while the actor Macaulay Culkin paid tribute to “a genius and my favourite Simpsons character”.

The singer Katy Perry noted that Hawking died on Pi Day, the annual celebration of the mathematical constant π, writing “there’s a big black hole in my heart”. Steven Tyler from the band Aerosmith tweeted: “You changed the world.”

The British TV presenter Jonathan Ross said: “The world just dropped a lot of IQ points.”

As news of Hawking’s death spread, images of an empty wheelchair were also shared on social media.