World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking with Nelson Mandela in 2008. Picture: ANA Pictures

London - Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, whose mental genius and physical disability made him a household name and inspiration across the globe, has died at age 76.

Hawking, whose 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" became an unlikely worldwide bestseller and cemented his superstar status, dedicated his life to unlocking the secrets of the Universe.

His genius and wit won over fans from far beyond the rarified world of astrophysics, earning comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

Here are some of our favourite Hawking's quotes:

1. Hawking upon meeting Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton in 2008: "I am very pleased to meet you. I admire how you managed to find a peaceful solution to a situation that seemed doomed to disaster. It was one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. If only the Israelis and the Palestinians could do the same."

2. "My goal is simple. It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

3. "In the long run the human race should not have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. I just hope we can avoid dropping the basket until then."

4. "I accept that there are some things I can't do. But they are mostly things I don't particularly want to do anyway. I seem to manage to do anything that I really want."

5. "I regard 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."

6. "Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do. It matters that you don't give up."

7. "It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love​​​."

8. "I fit the part of a disabled genius. At least, I'm disabled - even though I'm not a genius like Einstein. ... The public wants heroes. They made Einstein a hero, and now they're making me a hero, though with much less justification."

9. "Black holes ain't as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole, both to the outside, and possibly, to another universe. So, if you feel you are in a black hole, don't give up. There's a way out." 

10. "Physics was always the most boring subject at school because it was so easy and obvious. Chemistry was much more fun because unexpected things, such as explosions, kept happening. But physics and astronomy offered the hope of understanding where we came from and why we are here. I wanted to fathom the depths of the Universe." 

Read more: 

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Stephen Hawking: a brief history of genius

Black holes may not be ‘eternal prisons’

AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, Washington Post