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College mourns Professor Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018

  • 14 March 2018

Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge is mourning the death of Professor Stephen Hawking, a Fellow of the College for over half a century.

Professor Hawking died peacefuly today at his Cambridge home, aged 76. 

Students, Fellows and staff at Caius are united in loss following the death of the brilliant theoretical physicist, who described Caius as “a constant thread running through my life”. Dubbed “the most famous scientist since Einstein” by the Master of Caius Professor Sir Alan Fersht, Professor Hawking joined the College 52 years ago. His arrival came two years after doctors had given him two years to live, following his diagnosis with motor neurone disease.

The College flag is flying at half-mast to mark the death of the most famous Caian of recent times. A book of condolence has been opened in the Porters’ Lodge, and members of the public are welcome to pay written tribute to Professor Hawking.

Professor Fersht, who first encountered the physicist over 50 years ago as an undergraduate at Caius, said: “Stephen has been a constant presence in Caius, on the surface increasingly frail yet in many ways seeming indestructible. His loss is a great one for the College: Caius is Stephen – they have been intertwined for over 50 years. His passing will leave a void in the life of the College.”

A longer tribute to Professor Hawking’s long and extraordinary life as a Caius Fellow can be read here. It traces episodes such as the College’s funding of his flight back to the UK from Switzerland when he desperately needed medical help, and the adaptation of a College house to create the home in which Professor Hawking wrote his bestselling “A Brief History of Time”.

More recently, the physicist expressed his gratitude to Caius at a College celebration in 2015, held to mark his 50 years as a Fellow. Last year, in 2017, he was presented with a specially-composed space-themed piece of music, Beyond the Night Sky, as a 75th birthday present from the College. The exquisite ethereal choral work, by Caian composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad, is performed by the Choir of Gonville & Caius College. It was premiered at a College dinner for Professor Hawking last May – the last time he attended one of the events in Hall he so greatly enjoyed.

Professor Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement earlier today: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.

“He once said: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.”

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, paid tribute, saying, “Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He will be much missed.”

Prof Hawking was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 20 years to 2009.​

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