Stephen Hawking has died aged 76

Noted British theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76.

Prof Hawking developed a slow-progressing from of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that left him paralysed as he grew older, and famously communicated with a text-to-speech synthesiser through a single cheek muscle.

In a statement released on Wednesday (local time), Prof Hawking's family announced he had "died peacefully" at his Cambridge home early in the morning.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," his children Lucy, Robert and Tim wrote in a joint statement.

"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

The world-renowned scientist has left an enormous legacy. His work has shaped the scientific consensus for decades, beginning by examining the singularity theorem, the theory of relativity and black holes, and formulating the theories about the universe itself.

And at times, his career has seen him rebutting himself. He once criticised his early work that claimed information would be lost in black holes, calling it his "biggest blunder".

Prof Hawking has been awarded dozens of scientific honours, as well as receiving both the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the US's highest civilian award - and is a Companion of Honour in the UK. He was reportedly also offered a knighthood, but declined.

After being diagnosed with early onset ALS in his 20s, Prof Hawking was faced with his mortality from a fairly young age. He was given two years to live and despite living past that, spent most of his life in a wheelchair and was unable to speak without his 'Equaliser' computer programme.

But the disease didn't slow him down.

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he famously told The Guardian in 2011.

A noted atheist, he once described the brain as "a computer which will stop working when its components fail".

"There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

In the statement issued by his family on Wednesday, they too referred to one of his many brilliant quotes.

"He once said, 'It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love'," they wrote.

"We will miss him forever."

Historically, Prof Hawking has been a strong supporter of the many-worlds theory. It's likely that in least one of those worlds, the man lives on.