Christie’s offers Hawking’s legacy through an online sale

Stephen Hawking, who died on March 14 this year, was a brilliant mind whose discoveries have shaped our understanding of the universe. Christie’s is presenting a selection of 22 lots from the legendary physicist’s estate in an ongoing online sale entitled ‘On the Shoulders of Giants,’ taking place until November 8.

It has been a huge privilege for Christie’s to work on this selection of objects from the estate of one of the most brilliant minds of the last half-century. The lots selected for sale highlight Professor Hawking’s remarkable achievements in science alongside his unique personality and inspirational life story.” – Thomas Venning, Head of the Books and Manuscripts department, Christie’s London

The lots featured include Hawking’s offprints of his most important papers, including his seminal ‘Black hole explosions’ of 1974; a selection of his medals and awards; a copy of his best-selling ‘A Brief History of Time’ (1988) signed with a thumbprint; a bomber jacket; and the script for one of his appearances on The Simpsons. Estimates start as low as £100.

The last lot of the sale, one of Hawking’s iconic wheelchairs, will be sold to benefit the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. “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-travelled wheelchairs in history,” added Venning.

A highlight of the group will be Hawking’s thesis typescript estimated to fetch between £100,000 and 150,000. When Professor Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis was made available online by Cambridge University in October 2017, it proved so popular that it crashed the University’s website. Christie’s will be offering one of only five original copies of his thesis alongside early editions which celebrate the scientist’s genius.

When the thesis was written in October 1965, Hawking was already suffering from the early symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS,) and it was his wife Jane, whom he had married three months earlier, who typed out the 117 pages of the document, painstakingly adding the mathematical equations by hand. The thesis is signed in Hawking’s distinctively shaky handwriting, with the statement: “This dissertation is my original work. S.W. Hawking.

Of the 22 lots featured in the sale, 12 are offprints of Hawking’s most important papers, including ‘Origin of Structure in the Universe’, ‘Spectrum of Wormholes’ and ‘Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse.’ Also included will be rare and important autograph letters and manuscripts by leading scientific forebears including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

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 Lucy Hawking, daughter of Stephen Hawking.