Croydon pupils among guests at Hawking’s Abbey memorial

Genius: Professor Stephen Hawking, who died earlier this year

Four pupils from a group of independent schools based in Purley and South Croydon were among the hundreds of specially invited attendees at last Friday’s Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey for Professor Stephen Hawking.

The pupils were chosen from Oakwood and The Cedars schools, which are part of the PACT Educational Trust.

Pupils from PACT schools arrive at Westminster Abbey. Photo by Ben Rix

They were selected for their interest and achievement in STEM subjects – that is, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

At the Abbey, they joined accomplished scientists, celebrities, students and members of the public together with Professor Hawking’s family and friends, at a service which gave thanks for his unique contribution to our understanding of science.

During the service, Professor Hawking’s ashes were interred in the Abbey, beneath a specially commissioned stone, and next to other great scientists, including Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton.

Newton, like Hawking, was a previous holder of the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University, one of the most prestigious academic posts in the world.

Professor Hawking died in March this year, aged 76, after a – literally – stellar career researching the cosmos and theoretical physics around black holes and time, and all while having been diagnosed in his 20s with deadly early onset motor neurone disease.

The memorial stone for Stephen Hawking in Westminster Abbey

Wheelchair-bound, hardly able to move and, eventually, denied even the ability to speak, Professor Hawking proved to be a great communicator about science, as he continued his work and did much to interest the wider public in very complex work. His book A Brief History of Time, published in 1988, has been translated into 35 languages and sold more than 20million copies.

He became so famous, and popular around the world, that he even made cameo appearances on US television shows such as Star Trek and Big Bang Theory and had a starring role in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

A spokesperson for the PACT schools said, “Through the inspiring contents of the service, the pupils were reminded that Professor Hawking’s was a life of searching for the truth in the field of cosmology and overcoming all adversities.”

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