Stephen Hawking’s ashes to sit near graves of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin

LONDON — The ashes of world famous physicist Steven Hawking will be interred in London’s Westminster Abbey near the graves of ground-breaking scientists Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

In a statement released by the Abbey on Tuesday, the Very Rev. John Hall, Dean of Westminster, said it was a “fitting” tribute to the British scientist who died last week at the age of 76.

“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,” Hall said in the statement.

Newton was buried at the Abbey after his death in 1727, as was naturalist Darwin a century and a half later in 1882.

The Abbey announced there would also be a service of thanksgiving in Hawking’s honor later in the year.

Considered by many to be the greatest scientist of his generation, Hawking overcame a debilitating disease to gain a worldwide following for his brilliant work in theoretical physics.

He was born in Oxford, England, in 1942 on the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.

Along with fellow physicist Roger Penrose, Hawking merged Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to suggest that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes.

He also published hugely popular books that allow readers to join him in probing the mysteries of the universe. His landmark “A Brief History of Time” sold more than 10 million copies.

He accomplished all this while suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease that is usually fatal within a few years. He was diagnosed in 1963.

Although his disease left him paralyzed and using a wheelchair for mobility, Hawking said on his website he had tried not to let it affect the way he lived his life.

“I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many,” he wrote on his website.