Fans of the physicist and author Stephen Hawking can now buy some of his scientific papers or personal effects in an online auction to be conducted by Christie’s.
The auctioneer has placed 22 items under the hammer, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, a script from an appearance in “The Simpsons” cartoon and even one of his early wheelchairs.
Hawking died in March this year at the age of 76. For much of his life he had suffered a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease.
The famous physicist was diagnosed at just 21 years old with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. At the time, Hawking was told that he had only a few years to live. The doctors were off by several decades; the scientist lived to age 76.
ALS is characterized by progressive weakening of muscles, including those of the vocal cords. So, for much of his life, Hawking used a wheelchair to move and a speech-generating device to talk. Proceeds from his wheelchair’s sale will be donated to The Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (motor neurone disease is the term used for ALS in the United Kingdom).
The sale is part of a wider auction titled “On the Shoulders of Giants: Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Hawking,” which is open for bids from October 31 until November 8.
Hawking gained international fame after the 1988 publication of his bestselling book “A Brief History of Time”, which attempted to explain the origins of the universe as well as the presence of black holes.
One copy, signed with a thumbprint of the scientist, is on sale with an estimate guide price of $2,250 to $3,870.
The most expensive guide price however is Hawking’s signed PhD thesis, submitted to Cambridge University in 1965 and centered around his idea that the universe is expanding. For that work, the auction house is inviting bids above $126,000.
For Hawking fans with a little less cash in their pocket, there are slightly more mundane items in the lot including a bomber jacket, and an invitation to a talk given in 2009.
Perhaps one of the more unusual items is a motorized wheelchair used from the late-1980s to the mid-1990’s. It is described by Christie’s as the “earliest surviving example of a wheelchair used by Stephen Hawking.” It is listed with an estimate of $12,600 to $18,900.
Other fragments of scientific history included in the sale are from the work and lives of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein.
A script written by Isaac Newton in the 1670’s which reveals his fascination with the study of Alchemy is hoped to fetch more than $100,000.