London, March 31 (IANS) The funeral service of British physicist Stephen Hawking was held in Cambridge on Saturday in presence of stars and academics who turned out to pay tribute to the world-famous professor.
Up to 500 family members, friends and colleagues attended the private funeral service at the Great St. Mary’s Church, officiated by the Reverend Dr Cally Hammond, Dean of Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking was a fellow for more than 50 years, the BBC reported.
Thousands of citizens and visitors were estimated to have turned up outside the church to pay their respects, watching Hawking’s coffin being carried by six porters into the church.
Guests seen arriving earlier for the service included model and Cambridge University graduate Lily Cole, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May and comedian Dara O Briain, who made a documentary about Hawking, the Evening Standard reported.
Actor Eddie Redmayne, who played the the world-famous scientist in biopic “The Theory of Everything”, was one of the first to arrive at the funeral and was scheduled to pay tribute to the physicist in a speech during the service.
Actress Felicity Jones, who played Hawking’s wife in the movie, also arrived with her partner.
Redmayne will give a reading of Ecclesiastes 3.1-11 as the chosen text, which will be followed by a reading by the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. Eulogies will be delivered by Hawking’s eldest son Robert and Professor Fay Dowker, a former student of Hawking.
Hawking, who had motor neurone disease, died on March 14, aged 76, at his home in the city.
In a statement, Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said: “On behalf of our whole family we want to express our huge gratitude to all the wonderful tributes to our father and to those who have sent us messages of condolence.”
Hawking’s children said they had chosen to hold the funeral in Cambridge because Hawking lived and worked in Cambridge for more than half a century and was “an integral and highly recognizable part” of the city which “he loved so much and which loved him”.
Partial road closures were implemented in Cambridge and the funeral will be followed by a private reception at Trinity College, close to the church.
More than three thousand people have visited Gonville and Caius College since Hawking’s death to sign a book of condolence, which the college said will be eventually presented to Hawking’s family.
In addition, an online version of the book also gathered thousands of messages from well-wishers all over the world.
A legendary figure in the modern history of physics, Hawking is known for his work with black holes and relativity, and authored several bestsellers on science, despite being bound to wheelchair after contracting a motor neurone disease in 1963 at the age of 21.
Hawking’s ashes will be interred next to the remains of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey in London on June 15.