Transworld's managing director Larry Finlay has paid tribute to "one of the world's greatest thinkers" following the death of Stephen Hawking, aged 76.
The theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author of iconic worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time died peacefully early on Wednesday (14th March) at his home in Cambridge, according to his family.
Transworld, Hawking’s publishers, called it “a very sad day”, adding "our heartfelt condolences are with his family at this time".
Hawking published A Brief History of Time with Bantam in 1988. Explaining the laws which govern the universe to the general reader, it has since been translated into 40 languages and has sold more than 11m copies worldwide. It became a publishing phenomenon, selling two million copies in its UK editions alone. And, last revised in 1995, Hawking expressed his enthusiasm in 2016 when it was given “a new lease of life” with Hawking’s Pocket Universe app.
The landmark work was followed by further successful titles: Black Holes and Baby Universes (Bantam Press, 1993); An Illustrated Brief History of Time (Bantam Press, 1996); The Universe in a Nutshell (Bantam Press, 2001) and A Briefer History of Time (Bantam Press, 2005), as well as his memoir My Brief History (Transworld, 2013).
Hawking also became the author, with his daughter Lucy, of the George series of books for children. The five adventures set in space, all published by Penguin Random House, comprised: George’s Secret Key to the Universe (2007), George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009), George and the Big Bang (2011), George and the Unbreakable Code (2014) and George and the Blue Moon (2016).
Transworld's Finlay said it had been a privilege to publish Hawking, who he paid tribute to as "one of the world’s greatest thinkers".
"It is truly our privilege to have been Stephen Hawking’s publisher for the last three decades," said Finlay. "He has increased the popular understanding of scientific theory like no-one else since Einstein. Not only was he one of the world’s greatest thinkers, he was also a man with an infectious sense of mischief and wit."
Francesca Dow, managing director at Penguin Random House Children’s UK, said: "It has been our pleasure to work with Stephen and Lucy on their books for children. I know that Stephen’s legacy will live on through these books, bringing his discoveries, achievements and clarity of thought to the next generation."
Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, Hawking explained in his memoir My Brief History how the prospect of an early death "urged him onwards" through numerous intellectual breakthroughs. Best known for his work with relativity and black holes, for 30 years, from 1979 to 2009, he held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge.
Outside of acadaemia, one of the most famous scientists of all time, Hawking later cameoed in popular TV shows including "The Big Bang Theory" and in 2014 he was played by Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything". The film was based on Jane Hawking's memoir of her marriage, Travelling to Infinity, which helped Alma Books to its first UK number one.
Alessandro Gallenzi, founder of Alma Books, hailed Hawking as "a true luminary". "This is a very sad day – for us, for Jane and her family, and for the whole world," he said. "We are bereaved of a true luminary, a man who has been an inspiration and a role model for a whole generation, well beyond the boundaries of science and astrophysics. His legacy will live on – in his works and in the example he set for mankind to strive beyond the limits imposed by our bodies."
According to Nielsen BookScan, Hawking has sold 916,000 copies of his books for £9.6m in total since 1998. Lucy Hawkings’ kids’ book range, co-written with her father, have sold 112,000 copies for just over £809,000