Stephen Hawking's ashes to be interred close to Newton in Westminster Abbey

Professor Stephen Hawking's ashes will be interred close to the remains of another of Britain's greatest physicists, Sir Isaac Newton, in Westminster Abbey later this year.

He will also join the likes of Charles Darwin and a host of other famous names following a Service of Thanksgiving later this year, staff at the abbey said.

Professor Hawking passed away on March 14 this year at the age of 76 having become one of the most renowned scientists in his field despite his decades-long battle with motor neurone disease.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: "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.

"Other famous scientists are buried or memorialised nearby, the most recent burials being those of atomic physicists Ernest Rutherford in 1937 and Joseph John Thomson 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."

Following his death, Cambridge University described him as "an inspiration to millions".

Professor Hawking was 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.

Professor Hawking's children Lucy, Robert and Tim said of their father: "He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.

"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world."

A date for the service of thanksgiving has yet to be announced.

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