Hawking was born in Oxford into a family of doctors. Hawking 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. During this period—in 1963—Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease) that gradually paralysed him over the decades. After the loss of his speech, he was able to communicate through a speech-generating device—initially through use of a handheld switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle.
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