More than 27,000 people applied for a lottery to attend Stephen Hawking’s interment service at Westminster Abbey in London on June 15. The lucky winners traveled to the U.K. from more than 100 countries to pay their respects, a final indication of the impact the scientist had on the world.
Hawking’s eternal resting place lays beside Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. But unlike those science giants whose theories went mainstream, the non-scientist will probably never encounter Hawking's most famous, Hawking radiation. Yet his ability to make complex topics understandable for the masses turned him into a cultural icon with fans around the world.
His book “A Brief History of Time” has sold more than 10 million copies since being published in 1988. And his personal story of determination and perseverance was recently celebrated in film.
However they found him, the impact he had on his admirers was immediately clear during the service.
“It was like this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to pay tribute as a commoner, so to speak, to someone that profound who had that impact on the world,” lottery winner Joshua Bohar told VICE News.
VICE News caught up with three of the 1,000 lottery winners to discuss why they dropped everything to attend the service at Westminster Abbey, and what it meant to them to be there.
This segment originally aired June 18, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.