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Could public telescope or black hole sculpture be installed to remember Professor Stephen Hawking?


By Josh Thomas


Professor Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his early twenties and was given a few years to live. He died on March 14, 2018, aged 76. Picture: Andre Pattenden
Professor Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his early twenties and was given a few years to live. He died on March 14, 2018, aged 76. Picture: Andre Pattenden

Cambridge City Council unanimously approves plans for permanent public tribute

Professor Stephen Hawking at a dinner in his honour at Gonville & Caius College to celebrate his 75th Birthday. Picture: Keith Heppell
Professor Stephen Hawking at a dinner in his honour at Gonville & Caius College to celebrate his 75th Birthday. Picture: Keith Heppell

A sculpture of a black hole, a permanently mounted public telescope or an annual science festival are among the ideas suggested so far for a permanent public tribute in Cambridge to Professor Stephen Hawking.

Residents will be part of the decision on how best to remember him after Cambridge City Council unanimously supported a motion yesterday (April 19) to bring a permanent public memorial to Prof Hawking, who died on March 14 at the age of 76.

The theoretical physicist inspired millions across the world with his insights into the universe and his refusal to allow motor neurone disease, which he was diagnosed with at 21, to hold him back.

Councillors remembered a “colossus” with a strong sense of civic pride in Cambridge, the city he called home and where he was a fellow at Gonville & Caius College.

Prof Stephen Hawking, with sister Dr Mary Hawking, at the Moller Centre commending theirfathers role in progress towards NTD elimination. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Stephen Hawking, with sister Dr Mary Hawking, at the Moller Centre commending theirfathers role in progress towards NTD elimination. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Peter Sarris said: “In his life he embodied and personified the ability of the human mind and spirit to transcend the most daunting of circumstances. I think it is only right for, not just the university, but this city to establish a permanent monument in his honour.”

Ideas proposed so far have included naming a new railway station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital after the professor, building a “black hole sculpture” at the Guildhall and permanently mounting a public telescope next to a city path “so anyone walking past can stop and look up at the stars”.

Other ideas have included less concrete tributes like an annual arts or science festival to get children and young people involved in science.

Cllr Peter Roberts, who proposed the motion, said: “He was an outstanding scientist and a great ambassador for this city. One of the ideas I have heard something about is the idea of putting a telescope on a path so that anyone going past can stop and look up at the stars, like the famous quote.

Stephen Hawking as a 19-year-old at a summer school for young astrophysicists, run annually by the Royal Greenwich Observatory at its headquarters at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex. Picture by Robert Smith and released by Gonville & Caius College.
Stephen Hawking as a 19-year-old at a summer school for young astrophysicists, run annually by the Royal Greenwich Observatory at its headquarters at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex. Picture by Robert Smith and released by Gonville & Caius College.

“We need to be careful about not getting ahead of ourselves. You’ll notice I’m being opaque in my language. The tribute could be a renamed station, or an art festival, or anything. I would like to see something that children can get involved in.”

Cllr Lewis Herbert agreed the council should take some of the ideas under discussion, but should take ideas from Prof Hawking’s colleagues at the college and his family.

Cllr Rod Cantrill paid tribute to the “colossal” impact Prof Hawking had had, and fondly remembered the professor’s civic spirit in turning out to help with community campaigns and Cllr Oscar Gillespie also paid tribute to Prof Hawking’s brilliance and humility.

A process to work out which tribute would be the most appropriate will now begin, and residents in Cambridge will be included in the decision.

College porters from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, carry Prof Hawkings coffin out from church after the funeral service. Picture: Richard Marsham/Cambridge Independent
College porters from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, carry Prof Hawkings coffin out from church after the funeral service. Picture: Richard Marsham/Cambridge Independent

Cllr Anna Smith added: “I think it’s a really wonderful idea we do something to celebrate his life. I think it is right our approach to this should be collaborative. We want to see public engagement. We want to get this right. We want to discuss this and plan this so it is something the whole community can be proud of.”

The council unanimously approved the motion.

The media will be asked to ensure the widest possible public support for the proposals.

Following Prof Hawking’s death, a street art tribute was created by artists on the Mill Road bridge, as the Cambridge Independent reported.

Kyle Warwick painted this street art tribute on Mill Road bridge following the death of Prof Stephen Hawking. Picture: Richard Marsham
Kyle Warwick painted this street art tribute on Mill Road bridge following the death of Prof Stephen Hawking. Picture: Richard Marsham

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