They played poker together on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Now Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist and black hole maven who died March 14, and Sir Isaac Newton, the Englishman who founded modern physics, will rest together for eternity, or at least for its practical equivalent, buried for the lifetime of the stones that make up Westminster Abbey in London.
The Abbey announced that Hawking would be given the ultimate tribute. His ashes will be interred in the Abbey in a ceremony of “thanksgiving” to be held later this year.
He will be in good company. Sir Isaac Newton was buried in the Abbey in 1727. Charles Darwin was buried beside him in 1882. More recently, physicists Ernest Rutherford in 1937 and Joseph John Thomson in 1940 have been interred there.
“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,” said the dean of Westminster, the Rev. John Hall.
Armed only with a wheelchair and a voice synthesizer in the face of lifelong paralysis from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Hawking steered physics and our understanding of the universe into strange new territory and became an avatar of curiosity and determination.
He discovered that black holes, the fearsome hungry pits of bottomless gravity, were not final death but would leak and radiate, eventually exploding, recycling matter and energy in ways that still challenge physicists’ understanding.
Hawking often said that he wanted a formula describing what is called Hawking radiation — a fizz of particles and energy appearing to come from the surface of a black hole — engraved on his tombstone.
One hopes that the Abbey will follow through.