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Stephen Hawking’s Scientific Wheelchair Will Be Auctioned

by Ace Damon
Stephen Hawking's Scientific Wheelchair Will Be Auctioned

Offers can be made between October 31 and November 8. The items will be on display in London and include the doctoral thesis of the scientist, written in 1965 at Cambridge University.

Stephen Hawking’s Scientific Wheelchair and Scientific Jobs Will Be Auctioned.

A wheelchair and 21 other items belonging to Stephen Hawking, including one of five existing copies of the scientist’s doctoral thesis, will be auctioned. The announcement was made on Monday (22) by the auctioneer Christie’s.

Stephen Hawking

The items will be on display in London from October 30, and offers can be made between October 31 and November 8.

The wheelchair is priced between 10 and 15 thousand pounds (TBC). The money from the sale will go to two charities: The Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Association for Motor Neuron Disease, UK. The estimated price for “Properties of Expanding Universes,” a thesis written in 1965 by Hawking when he earned his Ph.D. from Cambridge University, is between £ 100,000 and £ 150,000.

“He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as soon as he arrived in Cambridge to begin his doctorate,” said Thomas Venning, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s. “He gave up his studies for a time he was so discouraged.”

The thesis, he says, “was the fruit of the resumption of his scientific studies,” and Hawking “kept it at his side for the rest of his life.”

For Venning, the thesis, autographed by Hawking in a call made tremulous by disease, is a key document in the scientific evolution of the physicist, and also a glimpse into his personal history.

Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at age 22, with the prognosis of only a few years of life. Despite this, he survived for decades, dying only in March this year, at age 76.

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The disease left him almost completely paralyzed, causing him to communicate through a computer-generated voice and move in high-tech wheelchairs.

Venning explains that the chair has become a symbol not only of the deficiency but of Hawking’s “mischievous sense of humor.”

The scientist even went over Prince Charles’s fingers – and he would have joked that he wished he had done the same to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – and appeared in an episode of “Monty Python” running after the physicist Brian Cox.

In addition to the thesis, there are awards received by Hawking and other scientific articles at the auction, including “Spectrum of Wormholes” and “Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse.”

Venning explains that the articles “trace the development of his thinking – his brilliant and electrifying intelligence. He can see every advance as he produces it and announces it to the scientific community,” he says.

Hawking’s fame is, however, only partly due to his status as a cosmologist who placed black holes on the map. The scientist was a cosmic visionary, a figure of inspiration and a global celebrity.

Venniung claims that Hawking “certainly thought of himself as a scientist in the first place, and a popular communicator in second,” but he accepted and even enjoyed his celebrity status. He appeared several times in the cartoon ‘The Simpsons’ and kept a statuette of himself in the program in his office.

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The auction will also include a screenplay of one of Hawking’s appearances in the drawing, a copy of his bestseller ‘A Brief History of Time’, autographed with a fingerprint, as well as a custom jacket, similar to a flight jacket, which he used in a documentary.

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

The children of Hawking hope to preserve their scientific archive for the nation.

The Christie’s agency leads negotiations to hand it over to scientific authorities as a substitute for inheritance tax. In addition to Hawking’s items, the auction will also include scientific articles by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein.


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