Physicist Stephen Hawking received the highest award for scientific achievement this Thursday for his work in theoretical physics and cosmology.
The Copley medal first was awarded in 1731 by the Royal Society, Britain's elite scientific academy. Previous recipients have included Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur and Capt. James Cook.
"This is a very distinguished medal," Hawking said in a statement. "It was awarded to Darwin, Einstein and (Francis) Crick. I am honored to be in their company."
Hawking, 64, is a mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge. His groundbreaking theoretical work has allowed for the classification and greater understanding of black holes.
One of the things Hawking said is that humanity needs to colonize space if its wants to survive:
"The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet," he said. "Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe."