Popularity of science books surges ahead of visit by Hawking

Bookshops are starting to stock up on science books to take advantage of the maiden visit to the city of world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking next month.

More readers have been looking for the professor's popular title A Brief History of Time since news of his visit broke about three months ago, stores have reported.

On the invitation of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Oxford-born cosmologist will be paying a six-day visit to the city from June 12 to 17. He will give a lecture on the origin of the universe on June 15 to an estimated 1,800-strong audience.

He is expected to meet Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen at Government House and do some sightseeing on The Peak.

A series of science seminars by other local and overseas physicists will be held at the university to coincide with his visit.

'We are stocking up on A Brief History of Time,' a sales assistant at Greenfield Bookstore in Mongkok said yesterday. 'More readers are looking for it.'

A staff member at the Central branch of the Joint Publishing Company said: 'The book is very popular. From time to time, there are readers buying it.

'Probably as a side effect, it seems other science books have become popular of late and we might need to stock up.'

Chen Tian-wei, of the university's department of physics, urged the government to take the opportunity to promote science education. 'Some people think science is inaccessible. But many phenomena in our daily life are closely related to science,' said Dr Chen, who will give a science seminar to secondary students.

About 1,300 of the tickets to Professor Hawking's June 15 lecture will be reserved for local university staff and academics, with the remaining 500 available to the public.

Application forms can be downloaded at and the deadline is today.

Professor Hawking, 64, who is confined to a wheelchair because of motor neuron disease, is the Lucasian professor of mathematics at the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge University.

He became a celebrity after A Brief History of Time was released in 1988. It has been translated into 33 languages and has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, although the book is often described as an 'unread best-seller' - one that many people own, but few have ever managed to finish.