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Stephen Hawking memorial sees his ashes interred, voice beamed to space

The voice of Stephen Hawking was beamed into space with a message of peace and hope on Friday as the British physicist, who gained international acclaim for his work on black holes, was laid to rest during a service at London's Westminster Abbey.

Hawking's ashes interred between science giants Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin

Stephen Hawking's life celebrated at star-studded London memorial

4 years ago
Duration 3:36
Among those gathered were Benedict Cumberbatch, Piers Morgan, Dave Gilmour, and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

The voice of Stephen Hawking was beamed into space with a message of peace and hope on Friday as the British physicist, who gained international acclaim for his work on black holes, was laid to rest during a service at London's Westminster Abbey.

The wheelchair-bound scientist who died in March aged 76 after a lifetime spent probing the origins of the universe and mysteries of black holes, suffered from motor neurone disease which forced him to use an electronic voice synthesizer.

His ashes were interred between major British scientific figures Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at the abbey, a 1,000-year-old location made famous worldwide for generations of royal coronations, weddings and funerals.

Members of the public from over 100 countries, selected by a ballot, joined friends and family for the service which included a reading from actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Hawking in a 2004 BBC film.

Lucy Hawking lays flowers as the ashes of her father, Professor Stephen Hawking, are laid to rest during his memorial service at Westminster Abbey in London on Friday. (Ben Stansall/PA via AP)

"His name will live in the annals of science," astronomer Royal Martin Rees told the memorial service. "Nobody else since Einstein has done more to deepen our understanding of space and time.

"Millions have had their horizons widened by his books and lectures, and even more worldwide have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds," Rees said.

Beamed to the black hole

The physicist's voice set to a piece by Greek electronic music composer Vangelis, who created the soundtrack for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, was sent from the European Space Agency's Cebreros station in Spain.

The sound was beamed towards the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00, which lives in a binary system with a fairly ordinary orange dwarf star, his daughter Lucy Hawking said in a statement.

"It is a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet," she said.

American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Kip Thorne spoke Friday at the memorial service for Professor Stephen Hawking. (Ben Stansall/PA via AP)

"This is a beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father's presence on this planet, his wish to go into space and his explorations of the universe in his mind."

Lucy and Hawking's first wife Jane were among an eclectic crowd that included scientists and schoolchildren; politicians including U.K. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn; Chic guitarist Nile Rogers; actress Lily Cole; comedian David Walliams; and talk-show host Piers Morgan.

Kip Thorne, a Nobel prize-winning American physicist, paid tribute to "by far the most stubborn friend I ever had."

"He absolutely refused to let his physical disability get in the way of doing great science or get in the way of having great fun," Thorne said.

Hawking will rest between Newton, who formulated the law of universal gravitation and laid the foundations of modern mathematics and Darwin, whose theory of evolution was one of the most far-reaching scientific breakthroughs of all time.

Interment inside Westminster Abbey is a rarely bestowed honour. 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.

Around 25,000 people applied to attend the Service of Thanksgiving, according to the Hawking family.

Late British scientist Stephen Hawking is seen in 2015 with daughter Lucy Hawking. (Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA-EFE)

With files from The Associated Press

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