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RIP Stephen Hawking: Bidding adieu to a brilliant mind

Last updated on: March 31, 2018 20:26 IST

The funeral of legendary British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was held on Saturday in a private ceremony attended by around 500 people comprising family, friends and colleagues, at a church near the Cambridge University college that was his academic home for more than 50 years.

IMAGE: Pallbearers carry the coffin out of Great St Marys Church at the end of the funeral of theoretical physicist Prof Stephen Hawking, in Cambridge. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

One of the world’s best known scientists and author of ‘A Brief History of Time’ died peacefully at his Cambridge home on March 14 at the age of 76.


The British cosmologist had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his 20s and spent much of his life in a wheelchair.

IMAGE: Jane Hawking and her son Timothy arrive for Stephen Hawking's funeral. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

British actor Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the world-famous theoretical physicist, was among the main speakers at the ceremony.

The private funeral service at the University Church of St Mary the Great near Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University was chosen by Professor Hawking’s children.

Lucy, Robert and Tim Hawking said they chose to hold the funeral in Cambridge in recognition that it is the city their father “loved so much and which loved him”.

IMAGE: A floral tribute left outside Great St Marys Church for Stephen Hawking who died peacefully at his Cambridge home on March 14. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

“Our father’s life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious. So, the service will be both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life,” they said in a statement.

IMAGE: Actor Eddie Redmayne was among the first to have arrived in Cambridge for the funeral. Redmayne played the theorectical physicist in the Oscar winning movie "Theory of Everything."
Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Hundreds of people who had gathered outside the church clapped, when the hearse carrying Professor Hawking’s coffin arrived. As the funeral cortege reached the church, the bells rang out 76 times, once for each year of the physicist’s life.

White lilies representing the universe and white roses representing the polar star were placed on top of his coffin, carried into the church by six porters, all in traditional uniform, from Gonville and Caius College where Professor Hawking was a Fellow for more than 50 years.

IMAGE: Actor Felicity Jones and film director Charlie Guard arrive at Great St Marys Church, where the funeral of theoretical physicist Prof Stephen Hawking was held. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The service was officiated by Reverend Dr Cally Hammond, Dean of Gonville and Caius College, which was his professional base for most of his life.

The funeral will be followed by a private reception at Trinity College, Cambridge University.

A book of condolence for the famous Fellow of Gonville and Caius College remains open at the premises as well as online.

IMAGE: Crowds gather outside Great St Marys Church, where the funeral of theoretical physicist Prof Stephen Hawking is being held, in Cambridge, Britain. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Ahead of the funeral, the college released new black and white photographs of Hawking taken in 1961 at a summer school for young astrophysicists at a castle in Sussex, southern England, when he was 19.
They showed him playing croquet and in a sailing dinghy, two years before he began experiencing the first symptoms of the motor neurone disease that would later leave him almost completely paralysed.

IMAGE: Members of the church choir arrive at Great St Marys Church. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

It was announced earlier this month that Hawking’s ashes will be buried near the grave of Newton, another famous British scientist, during a thanksgiving service on June 15.

“It is entirely fitting that the remains of Professor Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the Abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists. Sir Isaac Newton was buried in the Abbey in 1727. Charles Darwin was buried beside Isaac Newton in 1882,” said the dean of Westminster, the Very Rev John Hall. 

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