Hawking’s ashes to sit near Newton, Darwin’s graves

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London, March 21 (IANS) The ashes of renowned physicist Steven Hawking will be interred in Westminster Abbey here near the graves of ground-breaking scientists Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

In a statement released by the Abbey on Tuesday, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, said it was a “fitting” tribute to the British scientist who passed away on March 14 at the age of 76, CNN reported.

“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,” Hall said in the statement.

Isaac Newton was buried at the Abbey following his death in 1727, as was naturalist Charles Darwin a century and a half later in 1882.

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The Abbey announced there would also be a service of thanksgiving in Hawking’s honour later in the year, CNN said in its report.

Considered by many to be the greatest scientist of his generation, Hawking overcame a debilitating disease to gain a worldwide following for his brilliant work in theoretical physics.

He was born in Oxford, England, in 1942 on the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.

Along with fellow physicist Roger Penrose, Hawking merged Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to suggest that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes.

He also published hugely popular books allowing readers to join him in probing the mysteries of the universe. His landmark “A Brief History of Time” sold more than 10 million copies.

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He accomplished all this while suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease which is usually fatal within a few years. He was diagnosed in 1963 at the age of 21.

Although his disease left him paralysed and using a wheelchair for mobility, Hawking said on his website he had tried not to let it affect the way he lived his life.

“I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many,” he wrote on his website.

Following news of his death, his fellow scientists around the world paid tribute to Hawking, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson saying he had left an “intellectual vacuum in his wake”.

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“But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure,” CNN quoted the astrophysicist as saying on Twitter.

–IANS

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