Legendary British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking will receive a private funeral at a church in Cambridge on March 31, his family has said.
One of the world’s most famous scientists, who died peacefully at his home in Cambridge aged 76 on March 14, will receive an “inclusive and traditional” funeral ceremony at Great St Mary’s, the University Church in Cambridge, on Easter Saturday.
His ashes will then be “interred” near the grave of Newton, another famous British scientist, during a thanksgiving service later this year.
“It is entirely fitting that the remains of Professor Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the Abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists. Sir Isaac Newton was buried in the Abbey in 1727. Charles Darwin was buried beside Isaac Newton in 1882,” said the dean of Westminster, John Hall.
“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,” he said.
Other famous scientists buried or memorialised in the Abbey in the heart of London include atomic physicists Ernest Rutherford in 1937 and Joseph John Thomson in 1940.
Hawking had been eventually given the prestigious title of Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge a position once held by Newton having arrived in 1962 as a PhD student.
While a date for the thanksgiving ceremony at the Abbey is yet to be decided, the funeral date has been confirmed as March 31.
Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said they chose to hold the funeral in Cambridge in recognition that it is the city their father “loved so much and which loved him”.
“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,” they said in a statement.
“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,” they added.
The church is close to Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking had been a Fellow for more than 50 years. The college opened a book of condolence on the morning the physicist’s death was announced and that, and an online version, now contains thousands of messages from across the world.
A private reception will be held after the funeral service at Trinity College, Cambridge, attended by family, friends and colleagues.
Following his death, Cambridge University described Hawking as “an inspiration to millions”.