Stephen Hawking Dies at Age 76

World-famous physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking died early Wednesday at age 76.

The scientist's death at his home in Cambridge, England, was confirmed by a Cambridge University spokesman, The New York Times reported.

Hawking, who studied black holes, gravity and other mysteries of the universe, had long been confined to a wheelchair. He was diagnosed in 1963 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and was given only a few years to live.

While the neuromuscular wasting disease left him only with voluntary eye movements and the ability to flex a finger, Hawking's intellect was not affected.

"Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world," Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, told The Times.

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