Stephen Hawking's wheelchair, papers smash auction estimates

Cristina Cross
November 11, 2018

A wheelchair used by the late Professor Stephen Hawking and a copy of his doctoral thesis have fetched nearly £1m between them at auction. It had been expected to fetch up to 15,000 pounds. "The objective of the sale was to raise money for Stephen Hawking's Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association".

Hawking's 117-page dissertation "Properties of expanding universes" from 1965 sold for 584,750 pounds ($764,024) well ahead of the estimate of up to 150,000 pounds.

An invitation he sent out to a party held several years previously, a light-hearted experiment to see if any time travellers would turn up, sold for more than 10 times its pre-sale estimate of £100, while a bomber jacket he wore in a 2016 documentary raised £40,000.

In total, the auction, which included 52 lots, raised more than 1.8 million pounds (roughly $2.35 million, AU$3.24 million). His doctors gave him just two years to live, and the devastating news led him to lose hope and quit his studies.

"By the late 1980s he was at the height of his fame, and given his extensive travels to conferences and public events, as well as the scope of his intellectual explorations of space-time, this is arguably both literally and metaphorically the most-traveled wheelchair in history". Hawking's items all combined sold for about $1,306,275 at the auction.

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Perhaps more surprising, among some of Hawking's possessions was a script from an episode of "The Simpsons", which raised $8,160 (£6,250).

Along with inclusion of Hawking's personal belongings, the auction also included belongings linked to scientists including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, wrote The Guardian.

There was also a collection of his medals and awards available to prospective buyers, and they went for £296,750.

The physicist's daughter, Lucy, said Christie's had been helping the family & "manage our beloved father's unique and precious collection of personal and professional belongings".

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