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.

Just Posted

Graduation rates drop in Coast Mountains School District

Lower student cohorts, increase in Evergreen certificates pointed as possible causes

Kid-friendly ski day at Shames

There were 175 children who skied and took lessons for free at the Port of Prince Rupert event

Proposal could see Haisla reserve double in size

Ellis Ross says waterfront development would be ideal

Kitimat CDC benefits from special technology for special kids

“The kids participate now where they didn’t before.”

Home care declines as B.C. senior population grows, advocate says

More deferring property tax, using rent subsidy to stay at home

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Suspended B.C. legislature officers accused of ‘flagrant overspending’

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Alberta youth charged over theft of $17,000 in snow equipment at B.C. ski resort

Alberta RCMP recovered $17,000 in skis/snowboards believed stolen from Fernie Alpine Resort Saturday

China demands U.S. drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

Hua said China demands that the U.S. withdraw the arrest warrant against Meng Wanzhou

Giant ice disk equipped with webcam after surviving storm

Westbrook official Tina Radel says the livestream was requested by Brown University

Ousted B.C. legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

James and Lenz say release was ‘Contrary to all principles of fairness and decent treatment’

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

Auto shop apologizes after B.C. employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

Most Read