Hundreds of family and friends, including actor Eddie Redmayne, who played Stephen Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama “The Theory of Everything,” attended the renowned scientist’s private funeral Saturday in Cambridge. The service honoring Hawking was held at the University of Cambridge’s St. Mary the Great church, even though the celebrated cosmologist and mathematician, who died on March 14 at age 76, was an atheist, Efe reported.
Hundreds of people lined the streets for the funeral procession, from Hawking’s home in west Cambridge to the city’s centre, where the church is located. His coffin was topped with white “Universe” lilies and white “Polar Star” roses, which were placed on the casket by his three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim.
When the funeral procession arrived, St. Mary the Great’s bell tolled 76 times, one for each of the professor’s life, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in his 20s and was soon forced to use a wheelchair and eventually a speech synthesizer. During the service, Redmayne gave a reading from Ecclesiastes and astronomer Martin Rees read from Plato’s Apology 40, “The Death of Socrates,” while eulogies were delivered by professor Fay Dowker, a former student, and Hawking’s eldest son Robert.
After the funeral, a private reception was held at Cambridge’s Trinity College, one of the university’s most prestigious institutions. Hawking’s ashes will be interred on June 15 in London’s Westminster Abbey, near Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin’s graves.
Hawking, who turned down a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, helped establish the foundations of modern cosmology and became an icon of popular culture, appearing on numerous shows and TV series, including “The Simpsons,” “Star Trek” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Hawking’s rise to fame came after publishing “A Brief History of Time” in 1988, in which he explains the latest discoveries regarding the nature of black holes and the origins of the Universe for non-specialist readers.