On Friday 15 June, Head of Physics, Mr Harper, and four BGS Sixth-form Physics scholars – Jennifer, Rachel, Bhavin and Kelvin – were given the historic opportunity and honour to attend the service of thanksgiving for the life and works of Professor Stephen Hawking at Westminster Abbey. Over 25,000 applications for tickets were made by the public worldwide and BGS was lucky enough to be selected for some of the 1,000 spaces available.
The service was led by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, with hymns led by the Choir of Westminster Abbey. Due to Professor Hawking’s monumental impact in theoretical physics, his inspiration to the wider public and message of hope to those suffering from disabilities, the service was attended by many distinguished guests. Tributes were read out by Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Kip Thorne and Tom Nabarro, who was supported by the Stephen Hawking Foundation after breaking his neck. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Professor Hawking in the 2004 film Hawking, and Professor Hawking’s daughter Lucy read the two lessons. The formal address was given by the Astronomer Royal, Professor the Lord Martin Rees. Throughout the service, all of the speakers honoured the historic contributions Hawking made to physics but, more than that, the inspiration he gave to others demonstrating, through the way he lived his life, that living with a disability doesn’t mean you cannot live a great life.
All of those who represented Bristol Grammar School were honoured to be at this historic event; Professor Hawking was the first scientist to be buried at Westminster Abbey since JJ Thompson in 1940, which illustrates the significance of the event. His ashes were interred, during the service, between the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, a place worthy of such a great scientist. Following the service, Professor Hawking’s words, which were put to music by Greek composer Vangelis, were transmitted towards the nearest black hole and a copy of the recording was given to each person who attended the service.