I would like to talk about the loss of a personal hero. Unlike most of the people I find exemplary, Professor Hawking never carried a rifle or participated in any kind of action. Nonetheless, he was one of the bravest people to be written down in history. Against all odds, not only did he survive much longer than anyone could ever have hoped, he excelled academically and also managed to expand our understanding of the physical world.

He was born on January 8th 1942 in Oxford to Frank and Isobel Hawking, who studied medicine, and Philosophy, Politics and Economics in the University of Oxford. He too began his studies at Oxford, where he received his BA in natural science. He went on to obtain a PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics from Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge. His focus was the study of black holes and the circumstances of the Big Bang.

At the same time, from his final year in Oxford, he started experiencing his first mobility issues. He became clumsy and his speech was slurred. At the age of 21 he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given a life expectancy of two years. He considered quitting, but eventually went on to complete his thesis on the application of spacetime singularity to the whole universe. Although soon enough he was unable to move unassisted, he won an Adams Prize for his essay “Singularities and the Geometry of Space-Time”.

One of Hawking’s greatest achievements was redefining our understanding of time. Asserting that time itself was created at the moment of the Big Bang, he established time as a quantity, much like pressure, changing fundamentally what we know about how the universe came into being.