Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale

Published:Monday | October 22, 2018 | 12:02 PM
A Book and scripts by Stephen Hawking are among the personal and academic possessions of Stephen Hawking at the auction house Christie's in London, Friday, October 19, 2018. The online auction announced Monday, October 22, 2018, by auctioneer Christie’s features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, with the sale scheduled for October 31 and November 8, 2018 (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — 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.

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.”

The disease eventually left Hawking almost completely paralysed.

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.

Proceeds from its sale will go to two charities, the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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