Hawking was born in Oxford into a family of doctors. He began his university education at University College, Oxford, in October 1959 at the age of 17, where he received a first-class BA (Hons. ) degree in physics. He began his graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in October 1962, where he obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specialising in general relativity and cosmology in March 1966. In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease that gradually paralysed him over the decades. After the loss of his speech, he communicated through a speech-generating device initially through use of a handheld switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle.
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