Stars turn out for Stephen Hawking's funeral (Update)

Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist, died on March 14 at the age of 76
Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist, died on March 14 at the age of 76

Film stars, supermodels, comics and astronomers joined Stephen Hawking's family and friends for his funeral in Cambridge Saturday, the city where he dedicated his life's work to unravelling the mysteries of the universe.

The theoretical physicist who captured the imagination of millions around the world died on March 14 at the age of 76.

His death triggered a flood of tributes from Queen Elizabeth II to NASA, reflecting his impact both as a scientist and for his refusal to give up in the face of crippling motor neurone disease.

Hawking was famously an atheist but his children Lucy, Robert and Tim chose the church of St Mary the Great to say their farewell.

"Our father's life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious," they said, adding that for that reason the funeral was "both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life".

Hundreds packed the streets and applauded when Hawking's coffin arrived, carried by six porters from his university college, Gonville and Caius.

White lilies representing the universe and white roses for the polar star were placed on Hawking's oak coffin.

The church bell tolled 76 times, once for each year of his life.

Legacy will live forever'

Actor Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in the 2014 bio-pic "The Theory of Everything", read from the Bible at the service attended by around 500 people.

Queen guitarist Brian May, model Lily Cole, comic Dara O Briain and US film producer Barbara Broccoli, known for the James Bond movies, were among the mourners.

"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," Professor Fay Dowker, a former student, told mourners.

"His influence and legacy will live forever."

A thanksgiving service will be held at Westminster Abbey in London on June 15, when Hawking's remains will be buried near the grave of another legendary scientist, Isaac Newton.

Stephen Hawking
Profile of the British physicist Stephen Hawking.
Visionary genius

Among the well-wishers outside, many praised Hawking's achievement in expanding the boundaries of knowledge.

"He's made a major contribution to thinking about space, the black holes, to the whole atmosphere," lawyer Trevor Angle told AFP.

"He has had a major rethinking influence in the way people think about science and the wider world we live in."

Professor Chris Imafidon, who consulted Hawking in 2007 about encouraging higher level mathematics students, said: "He is not just a scientist; he is an inspiration.

"He was very humble, very modest, but his thinking is far, far ahead. Too far for this generation. He sees 100 years in the future.

"That's what is painful because there's nobody that can do that now."

Mike Meylan, a New Zealand mathematics professor visiting Cambridge University, brought his children to explain Hawking's genius.

"We live in a world where so much of what's celebrated is trivial and unimportant and it will pass away," he told AFP.

"But what he contributed will last so much longer."

Robbed of mobility

Hawking was confined to a wheelchair, almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through his trademark voice synthesiser.

He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged 21 and defied predictions that he would only live for a few years, although his rare condition—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—gradually robbed him of his mobility.

But the illness did nothing to dull his mind, and Hawking became one of the world's best-known and most inspiring scientists, known for his brilliance and his wit.

His work focused on bringing together relativity—the nature of space and time—and quantum theory—how the smallest particles behave—to explain the creation of the universe and how it is governed.

But he was also a global star—his 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" was an unlikely worldwide bestseller, and he appeared as himself in television shows from "The Simpsons" to "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

Explore further

Hawking's remains to be buried at Abbey near Newton, Darwin (Update)

© 2018 AFP

Citation: Stars turn out for Stephen Hawking's funeral (Update) (2018, March 31) retrieved 26 May 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 31, 2018
You have no class. Your ignorance and lack of respect ARE astounding. You are not in the same league as ANY decent human being.

Mar 31, 2018
Steven has endured what no one has possibly had to endure as we have no imagination of his suffering! But now he is free to return one day and continue life anew, in the mean time rest in peace

Mar 31, 2018
Same as @RNP here:
"@jd_ You have no class. Your ignorance and lack of respect ARE astounding. You are not in the same league as ANY decent human being."

Mar 31, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Mar 31, 2018
Why have a ceremony at a church when he believed not in Our Eternal Light?

Funerals aren't organized for the deceased (they're dead. they couldn't care less). Funerals are organized for those who are left behind. Some of those who are left behind need this kind of ceremony/reassurance for their psychological well-being.
There's also all those who would wet their pants and start some social media outcry if tradition were not served. Better to pander to them than have them throw their hissy-fits.

Mar 31, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Apr 01, 2018
No Nobel Prize. Nothing really astounding. Not quite in the same league with Isaac Newton.

Isaac Newton didn't win a Nobel Prize either.

Apr 01, 2018
I wonder where they'll put the chair? It should go on display in The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Apr 01, 2018
JD (Jerk D**cheb@g?): "Sad. He never achieved greatness. Just popularity."
Your multiple envy posts fail to assuage your angst over your failure to achieve either greatness or popularity. What shameless depths will you descend to next in your pathetic quest for validation?

Apr 01, 2018
Nobel prizes are not for merit ask "Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell", Steven saw above meritless medals, he was living in world where achievement is only in the mind. May he rest in peace.

Apr 01, 2018
Not even a Nobel Prize to his credit. Even Kip Thorne has a Nobel Prize.

Kip Thorne only has a Nobel Prize for the discovery of Gravity Waves because Einstein was dead and therefore ineligible.

Apr 02, 2018
@ JD-Skippy. How you are Cher? Other than being mad about where Hawking-Skippy got laid to rest. I am fine and dandy, thanks for asking.

No Nobel Prize. Nothing really astounding. Not quite in the same league with Isaac Newton.

Newton-Skippy does not have the Nobel's Prize either. Maybe it is a little too soon to judge the impact Hawking-Skippy might have on physics or science. Since he was the working scientist like you are not and was considered first rank by every one of his peers.

Maybe he belongs in the same place with Newton-Skippy and the Darwin-Skippy in the Westminster for the same reason they do, or should we kick them out too because of not having the Nobel's Prize.

Apr 02, 2018
I see prison release hasn't stopped you from posting here.
Why you think it would? Nothing can stop me Cher, I am bullet-proof. Choot, if I was in a prison I would not wait to get out to postum to you, you NAZI-Skippys bring out the best in me.

Do the police know that you have access to the internet?
I do not know if they do or know if they do not. Why you don't send them note and tell them?

Oh yeah, I almost forget. Do you ever wash your sheet-suits or Hitler uniforms? That's how we know the EU & Plasmatic-Skippys, you are always dirty, tattered and disheveled.

Apr 02, 2018
Stars have been turning out for billions of years. He even said so.

Apr 02, 2018
I wonder, did Jeffrey Epstein attend?

Apr 03, 2018
The guy who sat in the closet typing what Hawking's voicebox said is going to have to get a different job now.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more