Friends, family and colleagues of cosmologist Stephen Hawking gathered yesterday to pay their respects at his private funeral in Cambridge, where the British science great spent most of his extraordinary life, Agence France-Presse reported. Dr Hawking, who died on March 14 at the age of 76, was famously an atheist but his children Lucy, Robert and Tim chose St Mary the Great, the church of Cambridge's prestigious university, to say their farewell. "Our father's life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious. So, the service will be both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life," they said. Tributes poured in from around the world upon Dr Hawking's death, from Queen Elizabeth II to Nasa, reflecting his huge impact as a physicist and an inspiration, in his refusal to give up in the face of his crippling motor neurone disease. The funeral service was only open to around 500 guests who knew him. A thanksgiving service will take place at Westminster Abbey in London on June 15 during which time the professor's ashes will be interred next to the grave of Isaac Newton who was buried there in 1727, and close to that of Charles Darwin, who was buried in 1882.