Stephen Hawking's Thesis, First Wheelchair to Be Auctioned Off

One of five known original copies of Stephen Hawking's thesis is put up for auction.
One of five known original copies of Stephen Hawking's thesis is put up for auction. (Image credit: Christie's Images Limited. 2018)

Following the passing of the great Stephen Hawking in March, some of the physicist's possessions are up for auction at Christie's in London.

Among the items is an original copy of Hawking's Ph.D. thesis from the University of Cambridge, entitled "Properties of Expanding Universes," which is expected to sell for between $126,000 and $189,000. The thesis includes a signature and a handwritten note from Hawking confirming that the copy is original. [The 9 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics]

Also being auctioned off is the wheelchair Hawking used from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, before he lost the ability to use his hands.

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 auction includes a copy of Hawking's famous book "A Brief History of Time" with his fingerprint. (Image credit: Christie's Images Limited. 2018)

The auction will also include some of the physicist's medals, a script from an episode of "The Simpsons" television show on which he appeared (Season 22, Episode 1), and a copy of his famous and influential book "A Brief History of Time" published by Bantam Books in 1988, bearing his thumb mark.

The online auction, which starts Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, is called "On the Shoulders of Giants" and also includes manuscripts, notes and letters from Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Yasemin Saplakoglu
Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, writing about biology and neuroscience, among other science topics. Yasemin has a biomedical engineering bachelors from the University of Connecticut and a science communication graduate certificate from the University of California, Santa Cruz. When she's not writing, she's probably taking photos or sitting upside-down on her couch thinking about thinking and wondering if anyone else is thinking about thinking at the exact same time.