Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76

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LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 29: Professor Stephen Hawking speaks during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics at the Olympic Stadium on August 29, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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LONDON --  Stephen Hawking, whose brilliant mind ranged across time and space though his body was paralyzed by disease, has died, a family spokesman said.

"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years," his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement.

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 bestseller, 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 normally fatal illness for more than 50 years.

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