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Mourners Honor Stephen Hawking, Whose Mind Blazed Bright

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik puts final touches on a sculpture in honor of Stephen Hawking at Puri Beach near Bhubaneswar, India, on Wednesday.

Everyone from NASA to the cast of The Big Bang Theory is reacting Wednesday to the death of acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, known for his work on understanding the nature of black holes.

Hawking was the rare scientist who achieved fame in both an esoteric field and popular culture, as Wednesday's outpouring of eulogies shows. His passing was noted by actress Mia Farrow, Apple CEO Tim Cook, former President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

Hawking lived with significant disabilities caused by ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which required him to use wheelchairs to get around and a speech synthesizer for communication. Many remembrances focused on that aspect of his life — including near-miss wheelchair crashes.

But some observers objected to the notion that death had "freed" Hawking from his disease and the wheelchair.

Many chose to let Hawking have the last word, simply quoting the man himself.

His longtime academic home, the University of Cambridge, shared a touching video tribute narrated by Hawking.

Hawking is survived by his three adult children, who put out a statement saying:

"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. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. 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."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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