Professor Stephen Hawking has been laid to rest between the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey as he was celebrated for his “unique example of achievement against all the odds”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, musician Nile Rodgers, TV star David Walliams and Professor Brian Cox were among the guests who gathered at a Service of Thanksgiving yesterday.
The ashes of the renowned physicist were interred in Scientists’ Corner – the area of the abbey dedicated to those who have made a significant contribution to the subject.
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.
Designed by artist John Maine, the memorial stone is made from Caithness slate from the north of Scotland and was chosen to represent deep space. The memorial is inscribed with his most famous black hole equation, hovering over a series of rings.
Prof Hawking’s voice was beamed into space, towards the nearest black hole, as his ashes were interred set to an original piece of music composed by Vangelis.
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, who first met Prof Hawking at the University of Cambridge in the early ‘60s, while Prof Hawking’s collaborator and Nobel prize winner Kip Thorne also gave a tribute.
Lord Rees said: “Stephen described his own scientific quest as learning the mind of God, but this was a metaphor.
“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, time and gravity.
“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.”
Choral music echoed through the grand building as family members, led by the Dean of Westminster, processed to Prof Hawking’s final resting place.
Daughter Lucy and first wife Jane Hawking were among those who laid flowers. A medal created by the Stephen Hawking Foundation was also placed in the grave.