Global tributes pour in for Stephen Hawking, who died at 76

Scientists, politicians, celebrities and world leaders pay their respects.

LONDON -- One of the galaxy's brightest minds, physicist Stephen Hawking, has died at age 76 and tributes have come in from all corners of the globe.

Hawking finally lost his battle overnight with ALS, a rare form of motor neurone disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, outliving the predictions of doctors by decades. Hawking's family released a statement today saying, "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."

The celebrated English physicist had attained almost a cult-like status in recent years. He wrote the bestselling book “A Brief History of Time” and appeared on hit TV programs like “The Simpsons” and “The Big Bang Theory,” while his life was the subject of multiple films including the Oscar-winning 2014 drama-romance “The Theory of Everything.”

"We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet," Eddie Redmayne, who starred as Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” said in a statement today. "My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family."

“The Big Bang Theory” cast also tweeted out a photo with Hawking, thanking him for "inspiring us and the world."

British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: "His legacy will not be forgotten."

NASA tweeted: "May you keep flying like superman in microgravity."

In 2007, Hawking became the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness and has said his "ultimate ambition" was to go to space aboard a commercial suborbital spaceflight. Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic once even promised Hawking a trip to space, and Hawking said he accepted immediately.

Fellow scientists also paid tribute to the star of his generation, including U.S. astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and artificial intelligence researcher Demis Hassabis.

Even the Pontifical Academy of Sciences paid its respects, tweeting a picture of Hawking and Pope Francis.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai weighed in, too.

And world leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took to Twitter to celebrate Hawking.

Film director Errol Morris, who directed a documentary on the physicist, wrote: "We were lucky to have him for so long."

Stars who paid tribute to Hawking on Twitter include Steven Tyler, Sharon Stone and Katy Perry.