Newton, Einstein, Tesla … yesterday a new name joined the ranks of past great minds who have through their intellect, curiosity and wisdom bettered humanity and our scientific understanding.

In Stephen Hawking's case add a healthy dose of guts.

Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at age 21 the young Brit was not expected to live more than a few years. With stiff upper lip, he defied those odds.

Upon his death yesterday, at age 76, Hawking was confined to a wheel chair, wrote books and academic papers by the excruciatingly faffy method of selecting letters with a twitch of his eye – most other bodily functions having failed him long ago.

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Even those who have not heard of Stephen Hawking will probably recognise the synthesised voice through which he spoke to the world. In a way he was Humanity's first cyborg.

Despite life-long adversity he unlocked mysteries of the cosmos and challenged us to think about Humanity's future.

Most recently he suggested if we are to avoid extinction from any number of existential threats, we must venture out into space and colonise other planets – a vision shared by many including rocket man and one of Hawking's biggest admirers, Elon Musk.

His views were not always popular and he fought hard to prove his theories, figuring complex calculus inside his head.

Hawking's legacy is not only of one of the world's most brilliant minds, but also of a great communicator, for despite his handicaps, he wrote many inspiring tomes, including his hugely popular "A Brief History of Time,", all in easy and often witty language that made understanding complex things possible.

He may have never won a Nobel Prize, but next time they are handing out gongs for bravery, tenacity and his best attribute of all – compassion – they can include the name Stephen Hawking – albeit now, sadly, posthumously.