Tech's biggest leaders pay tribute to Stephen Hawking

Hawking considered greatest scientist of his time

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

NEW DELHI (CNNMoney) - Some of the biggest names in technology have joined world leaders, entertainers and scientists in paying tribute to Stephen Hawking.

The renowned physicist died Wednesday aged 76.

"The world has lost a beautiful mind and a brilliant scientist," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote on Twitter.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also paid tribute, saying Hawking's "legacy and brilliance" would live on.

"We lost a great one today," Nadella said in a post on LinkedIn.

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted: "We will always be inspired by his life and ideas."

Despite a debilitating neurodegenerative condition that left him paralyzed, Hawking became one of the greatest scientists of his time, brilliant at explaining many of the universe's biggest mysteries.

He believed that the survival of humanity depended on its ability to live outside earth.

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," Hawking said in an interview with CNN in 2008. "The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet."

Some of tech's biggest entrepreneurs are now racing to make that vision a reality.

SpaceX, the company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, aims to conduct its first manned spaceflights this year after several unmanned missions. The company has also said it plans to fly tourists around the moon in 2018, and Musk boasted this week that one of his rockets would be ready for "short flights" to Mars by 2019.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, currently the world's richest man, plans to send tourists into space next year through his space exploration firm, Blue Origin.

So does billionaire Richard Branson, whose company Virgin Galactic once promised Hawking a trip into space.

"A sad day for all at Virgin Galactic," the space company tweeted. "Professor Stephen Hawking was part of our family from day one. His support for opening space, his enthusiasm to fly, humbled and inspired. RIP Professor and thank you for all you have given us."

Apart from a fascination with space, Hawking also shared a fear of the dangers of artificial intelligence with some of Silicon Valley's leading figures.

Together with Musk, Apple founder Steve Wozniak and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Hawking signed an open letter in 2015, warning that AI could potentially be used to develop autonomous weapons.

India's giant tech industry also remembered Hawking.

The Tata Group, which owns India's biggest tech services company, shared a quote from the physicist saying: "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."

And Anand Mahindra, whose company Tech Mahindra is another big outsourcing firm, tweeted that Hawking "was a constant reminder of how the human spirit can triumph despite fate dealing you a bad hand."

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