AP Exclusive: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale

The online auction features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, with the sale scheduled for 31 October and 8 November.

A Book, written and corrected with handwritten annotation by Stephen Hawking is one of the personal and academic possessions of Stephen Hawking, photo behind, on display at the auction house Christies in London, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

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 books and manuscripts at Christie’s, 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 neuron 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 pounds to 150,000 pounds ($130,000 to $195,000).

Venning said the thesis, signed by Hawking in handwriting made shaky by his illness, is both a key document in the physicist’s scientific evolution and a glimpse into his personal story.

“He was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) just as he arrived in Cambridge to begin his Ph.D. studies,” Venning said. “He gave up his studies for a time because he was so despondent.

The thesis “was the fruit of him reapplying himself to his scientific work,” Venning said, and Hawking “kept it beside him for the rest of his life.”

Related: Hundreds line Cambridge streets to honour Stephen Hawking

Related: Stephen Hawking dies at 76

The disease eventually left Hawking almost completely paralyzed. He communicated through a voice-generating computer and moved in a series of high-tech wheelchairs. One is included in the sale, with an estimated price of 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds ($13,000 to $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.

Venning said Hawking “very much thought of himself as a scientist first and a popular communicator second,” but accepted and even enjoyed his celebrity status. He appeared several times on animated comedy show “The Simpsons” and kept a figurine of himself from the show in his office.

The sale includes a script from one of Hawking’s “Simpson’s” appearances, a copy of his bestseller “A Brief History of Time” signed with a thumbprint and a personalized bomber jacket that he wore in a documentary.

Hawking’s daughter Lucy said the sale gave “admirers of his work the chance to acquire a memento of our father’s extraordinary life in the shape of a small selection of evocative and fascinating items.”

Hawking’s children hope to preserve his scientific archive for the nation. Christie’s is handling negotiations to hand it over to British authorities in lieu of inheritance tax.

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 Oct. 30. The auction is open for bids between Oct. 31 and Nov. 8.

___

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Kjeryn Dakin, owner of Buks and Bukwildz, poses for a photo with her plaque for Business Philanthropy Award, Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake Business Awards show the resiliency of local business community

The business awards was held in six local restaurants on Oct. 17

The influenza vaccine will be available at no cost starting Monday in Alberta. “The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs," says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get flu shot as COVID cases jump by 332

Alberta’s central zone now has 132 active COVID-19 cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council opts to not increase Fortis and ATCO franchise rates

Franchise fees are charged to utility companies for the right and access to distribute commodities

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Most Read