Hawking is best known for his groundbreaking work in physics regarding relativity and black holes, theorizing that black holes emit radiation and eventually lose energy and weren't just pits of darkness as previously believed — a theory that became known as Hawking radiation.
At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a debilitating disease affecting his voluntary muscular movement, and was given just two years to live. Though he outlived the original prognosis, he was eventually confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his adult life.
Over the course of his life, Hawking advocated for making science accessible to everyone, writing 15 books including 1988's A Brief History of Time. Perhaps his most widely-known work, it provided an overview of space and time and catapulted him to international fame.
His other published works include 2001's The Universe in a Nutshell, an illustrated follow-up to A Brief History of Time; 2005's A Briefer History of Time, which offered a simpler explanation for his complex concepts and featured updated theories; and 2010's The Grand Design, which described the Big Bang as the inevitable result of the laws of physics.
In addition to his work as a theoretical scientist, Hawking also became a major pop culture figure, appearing in a number of television shows and films including the 1993 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Descent" in which he played himself. He also portrayed himself in several episodes of The Simpsons, Futurama, the 2016 made-for-TV comedy Quantum is Calling opposite Zoe Saldana and Simon Peg, and The Big Bang Theory. Plus, he narrated the short film How to Lose Weight in 60 Seconds, which was about extreme dieting, and starred opposite Keanu Reeves and Paul Rudd in the 2016 comedic short Anyone Can Quantum.
Hawkin also lead a variety of series, including Genius by Stephen Hawking, in which he challenged carefully selected volunteers to think like some of history's most famous geniuses in order to solve humanity's most long-standing questions; Stephen Hawking's Grand Design, which explored existential matters; Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything, a docu-series in which he searched for evidence to support the major scientific theory; and Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking, which examines the universe.
He is survived by his children Lucy, Robert and Tim who released a heartfelt statement about their father's death.
"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," they said, according to the BBC. "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."