CAMBRIDGE, England (Reuters) – Well-wishers filled the streets of Cambridge on Saturday for the funeral of British physicist Stephen Hawking, who was greeted by another leading scientist as "a caged spirit roaming the cosmos".
Hawking, crippled since a young man by a degenerative disease, struck the odds stacked against him to become the most famous scientist of his time. His work ranged from the origins of the universe itself over time travel to black holes in space.
He gained international fame following the publication of "A Brief History of Time" in 1988.
His coffin was crowned with white "Universe" lilies and white "Polar Star" roses and by coffin-makers of the University of Cambridge, where he worked. It was greeted by a large crowd in front of the church, which clapped when it was brought in.
The 76-year-old scientist was named by his Children Robert, Lucy and Timothy mourn, with guests including playwright Alan Bennett, businessman Elon Musk and model Lily Cole.
Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Professor Hawking in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, was one of the readers at the ceremony, and Felicity Jones, who played his wife Jane Hawking in the film, also attended the service ,
The ceremony included Hawking-specific chamber music entitled "Beyond the Night Sky," inspired by a poem and quotes from "A Brief History of Time" and Whistles, and "Shh "sounds based on space recordings.
Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, a personal friend, read from Plato's apology 40, "The Death of Socrates," which speaks of the search for knowledge that persists after death.
After being diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 21, Hawking's high intellectual intellect and stubborn steadfastness was familiar to ordinary people, Rees said in a statement published earlier this month.
"Why did he become such a cult figure?" The concept of an imprisoned mind roaming the cosmos aroused people's imagination, "he said.
"His name will live in the annals of science, millions have broadened their cosmic horizon through his best-selling books, and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all adversity – a manifestation of astounding Willpower and Determination. "
Hawking's Ashes will be buried at Westminster Abbey in June, among some of the greatest scientists in history, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Reporting by Henry Nicholls; Letter from Elisabeth O & # 39; Leary; Arrangement by Stephen Powell