Professor Stephen Hawking’s funeral service has begun, with his body being carried into the University Church of St Mary the Great.
The turnout to the service was extraordinary, with thousands of people lining the streets outside the Cambridge University college to pay their final respects to the iconic theoretical physicist.
As the funeral procession arrived, the Anglican church bells chimed 76 times; one for each year of Professor Hawking’s time on earth.
There was applause for the inspiring academic as the hearse pulled up outside the church.
Streets filled for Stephen Hawking’s funeral today pic.twitter.com/OYwt2CFnH3
— Haskan Kaya (@HaskanKaya) March 31, 2018
Six Gonville and Caius College porters carried the oak coffin into the 13th century church, which is part of the university where Professor Hawking studied and worked.
The funeral floral arrangements are reflective of his life’s work. White lilies represent the universe which so captured his imagination while white roses represented the polar star.
Professor Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, made the following statement about the careful thought process behind their father’s funeral:
Our father lived and worked in Cambridge for over 50 years. He was an integral and highly recognisable part of the university and the city.
For this reason, we have decided to hold his funeral in the city that he loved so much and which loved him.
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.
— Sir Cam (@camdiary) March 31, 2018
Dean of Gonville and Caius College, Reverend Dr Cally Hammond, will officiate the service, which is being attended by numerous family members, friends and colleagues.
Brian May from Queen and comedian Dara Ó Briain are among the guests, as is Eddie Redmayne who played the theoretical physicist to critical acclaim in the emotional drama The Theory of Everything.
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According to the BBC, Redmayne will be giving a reading of Ecclesiastes 3.1-11, which contains the following moving words:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
This will be followed by a reading from Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. Professor Hawking’s son Robert Hawking will give a eulogy, as will Professor Fay Dowker, who studied under the iconic cosmologist.
#EddieRedmayne has arrived to attend the funeral of Professor Stephen Hawking this afternoon. (Eddie is expected to give a reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 as part of the service). Our thoughts are with the family & friends of Professor Hawking today. pic.twitter.com/7Hp4WaQgA5
— The Redmayne Files (@RedmayneFiles) March 31, 2018
The ceremony will include space-themed music composed specially for Professor Hawking entitled Beyond the Night Sky. There will be a private reception at Trinity College after the service.
Professor Hawking’s ashes will be interred at Westminster Abbey in June, right by the remains of fellow scientist Sir Isaac Newton.
Reverend Dr John Hall, The Dean of Westminster, has made the following comment on Professor Hawking’s ‘fitting’ final resting place:
It is entirely fitting that the remains of Professor Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the Abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists.
Reverend Hall added:
We believe it to be vital that science and religion work together to seek to answer the great questions of the mystery of life and of the universe.
#easter #ripstephenhawking #riphawking Still can't believe we've lost such a hugely influencial scientific mind. Against all the odds, he seemed so invincible even through frailty. Wherever he is in the multiverse, I'm sure he is bathed in starlight.
— Mr Celtic ?????️? #fbpe (@Celticanz) March 31, 2018
Professor Hawking died peacefully at his Cambridge home at the of 76. He had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease while still in his twenties.
Our thoughts are with the family of Professor Stephen Hawking on this difficult day.