Physics

Stephen Hawking PhD thesis and wheelchair to sell in online auction | Science


Personal items belonging to Stephen Hawking, including one of his wheelchairs and medals, are to be sold at an online auction.

The world-renowned British physicist, best known for his research on black holes, died in March, aged 76. Hawking, who was wheelchair-bound for much of his life and used an electronic voice synthesiser, suffered from motor neurone disease.

The online auction, hosted by Christie’s, is called On the Shoulders of Giants and features 22 items belonging to Hawking, and also manuscripts by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. It will take place from Wednesday to 8 November.

The lots featured in the sale include personal copies of Hawking’s most important papers, such as his seminal “Black hole explosions?” of 1974; a selection of his medals and awards; a copy of his bestselling A Brief History of Time, signed with a thumbprint; a bomber jacket; and the script for one of his appearances on The Simpsons. Proceeds from the sale of one of the physicist’s wheelchairs will go to the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.



One of Stephen Hawking’s wheelchairs up for sale in an online auction hosted by Christie’s. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

The bomber jacket is estimated to sell for £100, while one of five known copies of Hawking’s PhD thesis is expected to reach up to £150,000.

Lucy Hawking, the late scientist’s daughter, said: “We are very pleased to have the assistance of Christie’s to help us with the important matter of managing our beloved father’s archives and his unique and precious collection of personal and professional belongings, chronicling his life and work.”

As well as the items offered at auction, Hawking said she hoped to donate the rest her father’s scientific archive and estate to the nation through the acceptance in lieu scheme, where articles of national, historic, artistic and scientific interest can be transferred into public ownership to settle inheritance tax bills.

Thomas Venning, head of the books and manuscripts department at Christie’s, London, said: “It has been a huge privilege for Christie’s to work on this selection of objects from the estate of one of the most brilliant minds of the last half-century. The lots selected for sale highlight Professor Hawking’s remarkable achievements in science alongside his unique personality and inspirational life story.”



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