The funeral for renowned physicist Stephen Hawking was held in Cambridge on Saturday, where friends and family gathered for a private service at St. Mary the Great. Actor Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for playing Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything, gave a reading.
Less than 500 people were invited to Hawking’s funeral, including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and other pioneers in space travel and theory. Redmayne’s reading was followed by eulogies from Hawking’s former student Professor Fay Dowker and son Robert Hawking. The service was restricted to only invited guests, with a small congregation that included Felicity Jones, Anita Dobson, and Queen guitarist Brian May. Although closed to the public, hundreds of people gathered outside the church to watch the procession and pay respects to the famed physicist.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” Redmayne began, reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 of the Bible. While Hawking was an outspoken atheist, his family chose to remember him with a traditional church service in order to give loved ones a place to come together and celebrate. St. Mary the Great is part of Cambridge University, where Hawking spent 52 years of his academic career.
“Our father lived and worked in Cambridge for over 50 years. He was an integral and highly recognizable part of the university and the city,” Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim, said in a statement. “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.”
On June 15, Hawking’s ashes will be interred in Westminster Abbey, close to the grave of Isaac Newton. Until then, a book of condolence will remain open at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge.
Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking solidified a friendship between the two, which was remembered in the service. For those who weren’t at Cambridge, the university’s website now has a space for condolences, where fans can share their own memories of the cosmologist.