Stephen Hawking's motorized wheelchair is up for auction

Christopher Davidson
October 24, 2018

Christie's auction house is selling a variety of items owned by the late physicist Stephen Hawking, including one of his motorized wheelchairs.

On any day of the year, you could pick up Hawking's 1988 bestseller A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes for less than 20 bucks at most bookshops.

Upon his passing in March, Stephen Hawking bequeathed a scientific legacy that will descend to new researchers and theoreticians for generations to come.

The auction includes one of five existing copies of Hawking's 1965 Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, 'Properties of Expanding Universes, ' which carries an estimated price of $130,000 to $195,000 (£100,000 to £150,000). The thesis includes a signature and a handwritten note from Hawking confirming that the copy is original. "Hawking threw a lavish party on 28 June 2009 for the benefit of time travellers", Christie's observes, "with the invitation, logically enough, being issued after the party had been held...'I sat there a long time, ' reported Hawking, 'but no one came'".

As the disease progressed, Hawking began using a wheelchair and communicating with others using a voice-generating computer. He was able to move only a few fingers on one hand and was completely dependent on others or on technology for virtually everything - bathing, dressing, eating, even speech.

"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-traveled wheelchairs in history", says Thomas Venning, head of the books and manuscripts department at Christie's London. Proceeds from its sale will go to two charities, the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

"Stephen Hawking's rather mischievous attitude to piloting his wheelchair became legendary", according to the lot description."Having run over Prince Charles' toes during a meeting in 1977, he is said to have regretted not doing the same to the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher".

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One is included in the sale, with an estimated price of $18,300 to $27,500. A Book, and scripts by Stephen Hawking are among the personal and academic possessions of Stephen Hawking at the auction hous.

"Stephen Hawking made four appearances in The Simpsons over a period of 10 years, something he joked made him more famous than anything he had done in science", said Christie's on its website".

Medals, awards, scientific papers and the script for one of Prof Hawking's appearances on The Simpsons will also be going under the hammer as part of the sale, entitled On the Shoulders of Giants. She said the auction would give "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".

"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", said his daughter Lucy Hawking in a statement.

Hawking will be in good scientific company at the auction.

The items - part of a science sale that includes papers by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein - will be on display in London for several days from October 30, before the auction opens for bids between October 31 and November 8.

Twenty-two lots will be up for auction between October 31 and November 8 in an online Christie's auction known as "On the Shoulders of Giants".

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