The hearse containing Professor Stephen Hawking arrives at University Church of St Mary the Great as mourners gather to pay their respects, in Cambridge, England. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
The hearse containing Professor Stephen Hawking arrives at University Church of St Mary the Great as mourners gather to pay their respects, in Cambridge, England. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
British actor Eddie Redmayne, who played the role of the late Professor Stephen Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama The Theory of Everything, attends his funeral at University Church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
British actor Eddie Redmayne, who played the role of the late Professor Stephen Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama The Theory of Everything, attends his funeral at University Church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
The coffin of Professor Stephen Hawking arrives at University Church of St Mary the Great as mourners gather to pay their respects, in Cambridge. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
The coffin of Professor Stephen Hawking arrives at University Church of St Mary the Great as mourners gather to pay their respects, in Cambridge. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
Professor Stephen Hawking's daughter Lucy attends the funeral of her father, at University Church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge. Picture:Joe Giddens/PA via AP
Professor Stephen Hawking's daughter Lucy attends the funeral of her father, at University Church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge. Picture:Joe Giddens/PA via AP
Jane Hawking, the first wife of Professor Stephen Hawking and their son Timothy, attend his funeral, at University Church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP
Jane Hawking, the first wife of Professor Stephen Hawking and their son Timothy, attend his funeral, at University Church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP

London — Hundreds of people lined the streets of the English city of Cambridge on Saturday, breaking into applause as the hearse carrying the remains of famed British scientist Stephen Hawking arrived at the church.

Some 500 guests had been invited to the private funeral at St. Mary the Great church for the service honouring Hawking, who died on March 14 at age 76 after capturing popular imagination with his writings about space and time.

Actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama "The Theory of Everything," gave a reading from Ecclesiastes during the service. There was also a reading by Astronomer Royal Martin Reese and eulogies by one of Hawking's children and a former student.

The bell at Great St. Mary's, as the church is known locally, tolled 76 times at the start of the service. A private reception was being held later at Trinity College.

The service was officiated by the Rev. Cally Hammond, Dean of Cambridge University's Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking was a fellow for 52 years.

Flags were lowered to half-mast in many parts of Cambridge to pay tribute to Hawking.

Hawking, who suffered from motor neurone disease, was known for his groundbreaking research into black holes and other phenomena. He persevered for decades, writing ground-breaking work even as he gradually lost control of his muscles.

He was also a best-selling author and pop culture figure known for, among other things, his appearance on "The Simpsons" television show.

Hawking will be cremated at a later date and his ashes are to be interred at London's Westminster Abbey near the remains of fellow scientist Isaac Newton.

AP