Selection of Stephen Hawking's personal items including his iconic wheelchair to be auctioned
A brilliant mind whose discoveries have shaped our understanding of the universe, Stephen Hawking, who died on 14 March this year, is one of the most well-regarded physicists of all time. Christie’s will present a remarkable selection of 22 lots from the legendary physicist’s estate during an online sale entitled ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’, taking place between 31 October – 8 November.
The lots featured in Christie’s online sale range from the offprints (the scientist’s own printed copies) of his most important papers, including his seminal ‘Black hole explosions’ of 1974, to a selection of his medals and awards, a copy of his best-selling ‘A Brief History of Time’ (1988) signed with a thumbprint, a bomber jacket, and the script for one of his appearances on The Simpsons. Estimates in this auction start as low as £100. The last lot of the sale, one of Hawking’s iconic wheelchairs, will be sold to benefit the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Thomas Venning, Head of the Books and Manuscripts department, Christie’s London comments, "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. The sale concludes with Professor Hawking’s wheelchair, in which he both toured the world as a successful scientific communicator, and from which his mind voyaged to the outer reaches of space-time, making it literally and figuratively one of the most-travelled wheelchairs in history."
Lucy Hawking comments, "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. We hope to be able to offer our father's archive to the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu* process as we feel it is a huge part of his legacy but also of the history of science in this country. We are also giving 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."
"In addition, we will be auctioning one of our father's historic wheelchairs, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Stephen Hawking Foundation. A highlight of the group is Hawking’s thesis typescript, an opportunity not to be missed for collectors (illustrated left, estimate: £100,000-150,000). When Professor Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis was made available online by Cambridge University in October 2017, it proved so popular that it crashed the University’s website. Christie’s is pleased to be offering one of only five original copies of his thesis alongside early editions which celebrate the scientist’s genius."
When he wrote his thesis in October 1965, Hawking was already suffering with the early symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (‘ALS’), and it was his wife Jane, whom he had married three months earlier, who typed out the 117 pages of the document, painstakingly adding the mathematical equations by hand. The thesis is signed in Hawking’s distinctively shaky handwriting, with the statement ‘This dissertation is my original work. S.W. Hawking’. Of the 22 lots featured in the sale, 12 are offprints of Hawking’s most important papers, including ‘Origin of Structure in the Universe’, ‘Spectrum of Wormholes’ and ‘Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse’, illustrated below. The online sale ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ will present these offprints alongside rare and important autograph letters and manuscripts by leading scientific forebears including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. News regarding this auction will be announced in the coming days.