Stephen Hawking's ashes to be kept at Westminster Abbey

A Facebook post from “Catholics Online” claimed that Stephen Hawking made a deathbed conversion to Christianity. Image via Wayback Machine

A Facebook post from “Catholics Online” claimed that Stephen Hawking made a deathbed conversion to Christianity. Image via Wayback Machine

A spokesman for Westminster Abbey said Wednesday morning (AEDT) the celebrated physicist's ashes will be interred later this year at a special thanksgiving service. Hawking's family will hold a private funeral service for him on March 31 at Great St Mary's, the church for the University of Cambridge, the BBC reported.

The site is close to Gonville and Caius College where Hawking was a fellow.

The private service, open to friends, family and colleagues, will be held at 2pm and is to be followed by a private reception at Trinity College.

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Britain's Professor Stephen Hawking receives the Honorary Freedom of the City of London during a ceremony at the Guildhall in the City of London, Monday, March 6, 2017.

Reverend John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, said it is "entirely fitting" that his remains will be placed "near those of distinguished fellow scientists".

Professor Hawking will be the first well-known person to be laid to rest in the Abbey since Sir Laurence Olivier in 1989 and joins the likes of Charles Darwin, Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer.

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As a scientist he earned comparisons with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.

Interment inside Westminster Abbey is an honour that is rarely bestowed. The most recent burials of scientists there were those of Ernest Rutherford, a pioneer of nuclear physics, in 1937, and of Joseph John Thomson, who discovered electrons, in 1940.

"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. He also wrote an instructional manual on the use of the astrolabe, an early scientific instrument used for observational purposes of celestial bodies.

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And he did all of this while battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which robbed Hawking of most of his motor function over the years. "For this reason, we have made a decision to hold his funeral in the city that he loved so much and which loved him", they added.

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