Professor Stephen Hawking

Written by Rachel Furner
March 16, 2018

The CCIMI joins colleagues across the University of Cambridge and beyond in paying tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking, who sadly died on March 14th 2018.

Professor Hawking was a supporter of the CCIMI and its work, and we were honoured to have him speak at the CCIMI launch event held in November 2016. In a pre dinner speech at this event Professor Hawking shared the importance of research in Big Data saying “In a dazzlingly complex world, you have to be able to discern the meaning in the mess. We are, in a figurative and literal sense, awash with what we call data… The power of information… only comes from the sophistication of the insights which that information lends itself to. The purpose of using information, in this context, is to drive new insight. For example, I may have taken great pleasure in talking to you about hairy black holes, as I did earlier this year, but the question is: just how hairy are they? What are the implications of the knowledge I believe I have now gained?”. He showed great insight into the value of the work carried out within the Institute saying “There is another question, and this is really where this Institute comes into its own: what new mathematical tools do I need to open up new fields of insight? This is the heart of the Cantab Capital Institute: to drive forward the development of insight, and so enrich a multitude of fields of relevance to us all”, and praised the work of CCIMI Director Dr Carola Schönlieb in advancing medical imaging, noting “the prize of a better-equipped doctor and a healthier patient is strong motivation – beyond the obvious satisfaction of pushing the boundaries of mathematics.”. Professor Hawking also showed his characteristic wit in discussing a CCIMI student project developing a semantic search engine for mathematical literature, adding “In our efforts to drive forward insight from information, we recognise that mathematicians could do with a little organising themselves.”

The CCIMI is thankful for the support Professor Hawking provided. CCIMI director Carola Schönlieb says ‘Professor Hawking was an inspiring personality and it was a great honour to be a colleague of his. The CCIMI is extremely grateful for his support towards their research vision and programme. Stephen’s speech at the launch of the Institute honoured and impressed all of us and will always be remembered as a most special moment in the Institute’s history.”

Widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists of all time, and as an incredible inspiration to many, Stephen Hawking will be greatly missed both within the CCIMI and much more widely. We extend our sympathy to Stephen’s family and his many friends.