Renowned English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has died peacefully at his home in Cambridge at the age of 76.

The announcement was made by his family in the early hours of Wednesday.

Professor Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

He was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease at the age of 22 and was given only given a few years to live.

The illness left him bound in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.

At the time of his death, he was still able to communicate using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device.

“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,” the family said in a statement. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor 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.”

Stephen Hawking is survived by a wife, Lucy, and two sons, Robert and Tim.

The scientist gained popularity outside the academic world and appeared in several TV shows including The Simpsons, Red Dwarf and The Big Bang Theory.

Here are some tributes on Twitter to the great cosmologist