For sale: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair and thesis
- Proceeds from its sale will go to two charities
Stephen Hawking was a cosmic visionary, a figure of inspiration and a global celebrity.
His unique status is reflected in an upcoming auction of some of the late physicist’s possessions: it includes complex scientific papers, one of the world’s most iconic wheelchairs and a script from The Simpsons.
The online sale announced Monday by auctioneer Christie’s features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, some of his many awards, and scientific papers such as Spectrum of Wormholes and Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse.
Thomas Venning, head of Christies’ books and manuscripts department, said the papers “trace the development of his thought – this brilliant, electrifying intelligence.”
“You can see each advance as he produced it and introduced it to the scientific community,” Venning said.
Of course, Hawking’s fame rests only partly on his scientific status as the cosmologist who put black holes on the map.
Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 22 and given just a few years to live, he survived for decades, dying in March at 76.
The auction includes one of five existing copies of Hawking’s 1965 Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, Properties of Expanding Universes, which carries an estimated price of £100,000 to £150,000 (US$130,000 to US$195,000).
The disease eventually left Hawking almost completely paralysed. He communicated through a voice-generating computer and moved in a series of hi-tech wheelchairs. One is included in the sale, with an estimated price of £10,000 to £15,000 (US$13,000 to US$19,500).
Proceeds from its sale will go to two charities, the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Venning said the wheelchair became a symbol not just of disability but of Hawking’s “puckish sense of humour”.
He once ran over Prince Charles’ toes – and reportedly joked that he wished he had done the same to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – and appeared in a Monty Python skit running down fellow physicist Brian Cox.
The items – part of a science sale that includes papers by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein – will be on display in London for several days from October 30. The auction is open for bids between October 31 and November 8.