Prof Stephen Hawking funeral: Legacy ‘will live forever’

Prof Stephen Hawking funeral: Legacy 'will live forever'

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Media captionCrowds bid farewell to Stephen Hawking at Cambridge funeral

The legacy of Prof Stephen Hawking will live forever, mourners at the theoretical physicist’s funeral heard.

Prof Hawking, who had motor neurone disease, died on 14 March, aged 76, at his home in Cambridge.

Actor Eddie Redmayne was one of several speakers at a service at the university church, Great St Mary’s.

The professor’s eldest son Robert, former student Prof Fay Dowker and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees also gave addresses to the congregation.

As the funeral cortege arrived at the church, the bell rang out 76 times – once for each year of Prof Hawking’s life.

His close family, including his three children Lucy, Robert and Tim, followed behind the hearse carrying the professor’s coffin.

As it pulled up, the vehicle was met with applause from the hundreds gathered outside the church.

An arrangement of white lilies, to represent the universe, and another of white roses representing the polar star was placed on top of his coffin.

It was carried into the church by six porters from Gonville and Caius College, where Prof Hawking was a fellow for more than 50 years.

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Image caption As the hearse made its way past King’s College, crowds strained to take photographs
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Image caption Porters from the professor’s college acted as pallbearers
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Image caption The funeral cortege went through Cambridge city centre

The porters, who often assisted him when he visited the college for formal dinners, were asked to be pallbearers by the professor’s family.

Up to 500 invited family, friends and colleagues attended the private service.

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Image caption Student Haskan Kaya had a bird’s eye view of the funeral cortege from the top floor of Gonville and Caius College
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Image caption The choir of Gonville and Caius College performed during the ceremony

Among those inside the church was Eddie Redmayne, who played the role of the professor in the 2014 biographical drama The Theory of Everything.

He read from Ecclesiastes 3.1-11, while eulogies were delivered by Robert Hawking and Prof Dowker.

The service was officiated by the Reverend Dr Cally Hammond, Dean of Gonville and Caius College.

Image copyright Joe Giddens
Image caption Jane Hawking, the professor’s first wife and their son, Timothy, attended

During the service the choir of Gonville and Caius performed the choral work Beyond the Night Sky, which was originally composed as a gift to Prof Hawking for his 75th birthday party at the college last year.

Other guests seen arriving at the service were Queen guitarist Brian May and actress Anita Dobson, and television presenter and comedian Dara O Briain.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk and playwright Alan Bennett had also been on the guest list.

Extracts from eulogy read by Prof Faye Dowker

Stephen shared his work and his zest for the fundamental questions it addressed with wide audiences.

He inspired people with the excitement and importance of pure scientific enquiry and was admired and revered for his devotion, as a scholar, to the pursuit of knowledge.

This high regard was demonstrated wherever in the world he gave a public lecture: the auditorium was always packed, the atmosphere electric and the applause thunderous.

Stephen was my teacher, mentor and friend.

I, like many who knew and loved him, had come to think of him as immortal and our sorrow is tinged with a feeling of disbelief that he is no longer here.

But his influence and legacy will live forever.

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Image caption Eddie Redmayne arrived at the church earlier
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Image caption People have gathered outside the church waiting for the funeral cortege to arrive

Among the hundreds of people gathered outside the church, many said they had braved the chilly temperature and drizzle to pay their respects to a man they regarded as “an inspiration”.

Cambridge PhD Student Daisy Dixon, 28, said Prof Hawking had been an “amazing person”.

“It’s exciting that someone like that lived in my lifetime,” the philosophy scholar said.

“It’s a very sad day but it’s lovely to see everyone here today to pay our respects.”

Rod Crozier, who travelled from Boston, Lincolnshire, said: “He’s a very inspirational person… for what he’s done in his life and what he’s achieved.

“You’re never going to see another like him, to be honest.”

The funeral was followed by a private reception at Trinity College.

Professor Hawking’s ashes will be interred next to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey in June.

Image copyright Dan White
Image caption The professor was photographed clutching his college’s teddy bear mascot

A condolence book, which was opened on the morning of Prof Hawking’s death, will be available to members of the public in the porters’ lodge of Gonville and Caius College.

A service of thanksgiving for his life will take place at Westminster Abbey in London on 15 June during which time the professor’s ashes will be interred next to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton who was buried there in 1727, and close to that of Charles Darwin, who was buried in 1882.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said it was “entirely fitting” the professor’s final resting place should be “near those of distinguished fellow scientists”.

Image copyright Lucy Ward
Image caption A condolence book will be available for members of the public to sign

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