A brief history of Stephen Hawking's most memorable moments

LONDON -- His body may have been ravaged by disease, but his mind soared into the cosmos. Stephen Hawking, who died Tuesday at the age of 76, had even trained in zero gravity, hoping to get into space.

"I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come," he said at the time.

His life would have been an inspiration even if he hadn't defied medical science and lived 50 years longer than a person afflicted with ALS, the muscle-degenerating Lou Gehrig's disease, is supposed to.  

As he once told "60 Minutes," he went scientifically where no man had gone before.

"For me it is quite an achievement," he said. "I never thought I would get so far."

He said his physical limitations had freed his mind to develop brilliant new theories on the origins of the universe and what actually happens in black holes. His ability to explain those theories, using his computer-synthesized voice and in his unlikely best seller "A Brief History of Time," made him probably the most famous scientist of his generation. It earned him one of President Obama's first Medals of Freedom.

"Professor Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man and a mediocre student," Obama said at the ceremony.

Hawking's life story, depicted in the 2014 movie "The Theory of Everything," might have been dismissed as a Hollywood fantasy if it wasn't true. But he didn't need actors to play him. He was quite willing to play himself, on "Star Trek" and on "The Simpsons."

But it's the science that endures. That, and his message.

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet."

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.