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Stephen Hawking helped elevate Canada's science profile

Last Updated Mar 14, 2018 at 1:16 pm EDT

FILE - In this March 6, 2017 file photo, Britain's Professor Stephen Hawking is presented with his illuminated Freedom scroll by the Chamberlain of the City of London Peter Kane as he receives the Honorary Freedom of the City of London during a ceremony at the Guildhall in the City of London. Hawking, whose brilliant mind ranged across time and space though his body was paralyzed by disease, has died, a family spokesman said early Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

TORONTO – Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who died early today at his home in Cambridge, England at the age of 76, elevated Canada’s profile in the physics community in 2008 when he accepted a research post at the country’s “crown jewel” of theoretical physics study.

Hawking took on the title of distinguished research chair at the prestigious Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo and visited the facility in the summer of 2010 and again in 2012.

His arrival in 2010 came several months after the institute named a new wing at its Waterloo facility after the wheelchair-bound scientist.

In a video conference prior to his visit, Hawking said the institute’s chosen focus on quantum theory and space-time was close to his heart.

Hawking, who also visited the underground SNOLAB neutrino observatory in Sudbury, Ont., in 1998 and 2012, became a scientific celebrity through his theories on black holes and the nature of time, work that he carried on despite becoming paralyzed by motor neurone disease.

His 1988 book “A Brief History of Time” was an international bestseller; “A Briefer History of Time,” intended to be more accessible, followed in 2005.

His early life was chronicled in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything,” with Eddie Redmayne winning the best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of the scientist.

“Saddened to learn of the passing of Stephen Hawking,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a tweet.

“(He) taught us the endless possibilities of our own curiosity. He will continue to inspire generations to come.”