Saturday 20 October 2018

Stephen Hawking laid to rest between graves of Newton and Darwin

The world-famous physicist’s first wife Jane was among those laying flowers during the service at Westminster Abbey.

Jane Hawking lays flowers as the ashes of Professor Stephen Hawking are laid to rest during his memorial service at Westminster Abbey (Ben Stansall/PA)
Jane Hawking lays flowers as the ashes of Professor Stephen Hawking are laid to rest during his memorial service at Westminster Abbey (Ben Stansall/PA)

By Sally Wardle, Press Association Health and Science Correspondent

Professor Stephen Hawking has been laid to rest between the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey, during a service to celebrate his life.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, musician Nile Rodgers, TV star David Walliams and Professor Brian Cox were among the guests who gathered to remember the renowned physicist.

His ashes were interred in Scientists’ Corner, the area of the Abbey dedicated to those who have made a significant contribution to the subject.

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Dean of Westminster John Hall (third right), with Jane Hawking (second left) and daughter Lucy Hawking (centre), presides over the internment of the ashes of Professor Hawking in the nave at Westminster Abbey (Ben Stansall/PA)

Choral music echoed through the grand building as family members, led by the Dean of Westminster, processed to Prof Hawking’s final resting place.

His daughter, Lucy, and first wife Jane Hawking, were among those who laid flowers, while a medal created by the Stephen Hawking Foundation was also placed in the grave.

A memorial stone will lie above inscribed, “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking 1942 – 2018”.

The words are a translation of the Latin on the nearby grave of Sir Isaac Newton.

Prof Hawking’s voice was expected to be beamed into space, towards the nearest black hole, as his ashes were interred, set to an original piece of music composed by Vangelis.

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Astronaut Tim Peake speaking at the memorial service for Professor Stephen Hawking (/PA)

His children have expressed their gratitude to Westminster Abbey for allowing their father to have a “distinguished” final resting place between the graves of two eminent scientists.

The dark memorial stone, designed by artist John Maine, is made from Caithness slate from the north of Scotland and was chosen to represent deep space.

It is inscribed with his most famous black hole equation, hovering over a series of rings.

The service featured readings from Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the physicist in a BBC drama, and astronaut Tim Peake.

An address was given by Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, while Prof Hawking’s collaborator and Nobel prize winner Kip Thorne also gave a tribute.

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Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Professor Hawking, speaking at the service in Westminster Abbey (Ben Stansall/PA)

In his address, Lord Rees said: “He shared Darwin’s agnosticism, but it is fitting that he too should be interred in this national shrine.

“His name will live in the annals of science. Nobody else since Einstein has done more to deepen our understanding of space and time.

“Millions have had their horizons widened by his books and lectures, and even more worldwide have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds.”

Guests from the worlds of showbusiness, science and politics attended, evidencing how the physicist bridged the gap between academia and popular culture.

Actress Lily Cole, TV presenter Piers Morgan, actor Ben Miller, Carol Vorderman, Science Minister Sam Gyimah and Culture Minister Matt Hancock were among those present.

One thousand members of the public, from more than 100 countries, were also offered the opportunity to attend the thanksgiving service, after a ballot attracted 25,000 applications for tickets.

Prof Hawking died at his Cambridge home on March 14, aged 76.

At the age of just 22, he was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease and given just a few years to live.

His illness left him wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication.

However, he defied all odds, going on to become a towering figure in the world of physics, a bestselling author particularly with his book A Brief History Of Time, a father of three and a TV celebrity.

A private funeral service was held in Cambridge in March.

Press Association

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