Photo: BBC/RICHARD ANSETT
World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.
He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.
The Briton was known for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.
Stephen Hawking once recorded a video to pay tribute to his Armenian teacher who inspired his early steps into scholarship.
He said Dikran Tahta at St Albans School opened his eyes to maths, which he describes as the “blueprint of the universe”.
“My handwriting was bad, and I could be lazy. Many teachers were boring. Not Mr Tahta,” said the physicist.
“His classes were lively and exciting. Everything could be debated. Together we built my first computer, it was made with electro-mechanical switches,” said Prof Hawking.
“Thanks to Mr Tahta, I became a professor of mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton.”
Prof Hawking said that “behind every exceptional person, there is an exceptional teacher”.
Dikran Tahta’s family settled in Manchester after the Armenian Genocide. Much of his childhood, and the influence of his Armenian religious upbringing, is reflected upon in his penultimate book Ararat Associations, in which he notes how his parents were keen for their children to have an English education, yet made sure that they spoke Armenian at home. He was christened by Bishop Tourian in the Armenian Church in Manchester, and his name Dikran was shortened to Dick, but he never forgot his Armenian roots.
At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease, the BBC reports.
The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.
Prof Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics.
He also discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing – a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation.