World-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, a spokesperson for his family has confirmed.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

His three children – Lucy, Robert and Tim – released a joint statement honouring their father.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” they said.

“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.”

Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 and given two years to live. Instead, he went on to provide a framework for the entire universe as we know it – i.e. that space and time began with a Big Bang, and will end in black holes – as well as publish numerous books, including A Brief History of Time, which spent more than five years on the London Sunday Times bestseller list.

He was given more than a dozen honorary degrees over the course of his life, and was awarded the CBE in 1982.

His early life was depicted in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, which earned star Eddie Redmayne the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Image: Getty Images / Bryan Bedder