The voice of theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking will be beamed into space with a message of peace and hope on Friday. The British physicist, known for his acclaimed work on black holes, will be laid to rest during a service at London’s Westminster Abbey.
Hawking died in March at an age of 76 after spending a lifetime probing the origin of the universe. He suffered from motor neuron disease which forced him to be bound to wheelchair and use an electronic voice synthesizer. His ashes were interred between that of British scientific figures Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at the abbey. The Abbey is a 1,000-year-old location that is known for generations of royal coronations, weddings and funeral.
Along with friends and family, members of the public from over 100 countries selected by a ballot joined the service. Reuters reports that the service included a reading from actor Benedict Cumberbatch who played Hawking in a 2004 BBC film. The physicist’s voice is set to a piece by Greek electronic music composer Vangelis, who created the soundtrack for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. The voice was sent from the European Space Agency’s Cebreros station in Spain.
Interestingly, the sound was beamed towards the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00, which lives in a binary system and has an ordinary orange dwarf star. “It is a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet,” said Lucy Hawking, daughter of Stephen Hawking in a statement.
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Stephen Hawking will rest between Newton, who created the law of universal gravitation and Darwin, who created theory of evolution, still considered one of the far-reaching scientific breakthroughs of all time. According to the Hawking family, around 25,000 people applied to attend the service of thanksgiving.