Flags were lowered to half-staff at buildings across Waterloo on Wednesday as the city mourned the death of Stephen Hawking.

Hawking was the first distinguished research chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He gave his only public speech in Canada during a 2010 trip to Waterloo, and visited the city again in 2012 for the opening of the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo.

In 2011, the institute opened its Stephen Hawking Centre research and collaboration space. According to Perimeter, it is the only building in the world Hawking agreed to have named for him.

“Stephen’s passing is a very sad day for physics and for humankind,” Perimeter executive director Neil Turok, a friend and colleague of Hawking’s said in a statement

“His spirit will live on in all of us who knew him, as we aspire, with all our hearts, to perpetuate the many wonderful human qualities he embodied.”

Many of the leaders in Waterloo’s physics community had special connections to Hawking. Turok worked with Hawking at the University of Cambridge, while Hawking supervised the PhD of Institute for Quantum Computing founder Raymond Laflamme.

Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky said all city flags were to be lowered Wednesday in honour of Hawking. Civic leaders and institutions shared their reflections on Hawking’s life online.