Entertainment Celebrity Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis up for sale
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Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis up for sale

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Stephen Hawking in his younger days. Photo: Getty
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Possessions belonging to late physicist and cosmic visionary Stephen Hawking, including his doctoral thesis, one of the world’s most iconic wheelchairs and a script from The Simpsons, are going under the hammer.

Auction house Christies is handing the sale featuring 22 items from Hawking, including his thesis on the origins of the universe, some of his many awards, and scientific papers such as Spectrum of Wormholes and Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse.

Thomas Venning, head of Christies’ books and manuscripts department, said the papers “trace the development of his thought – this brilliant, electrifying intelligence.”

“You can see each advance as he produced it and introduced it to the scientific community,” Venning said.

Hawking’s fame rests only partly on his scientific status as the cosmologist who put black holes on the map.

Diagnosed with motor neuron disease at 22 and given just a few years to live, he survived for decades, dying in March at 76.

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 £100,000 ($A184,000) to£.

Venning said the thesis, signed by Hawking in handwriting made shaky by his illness, is both a key document in the physicist’s scientific evolution and a glimpse into his personal story.

“He was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) just as he arrived in Cambridge to begin his Ph.D. studies,” Venning said. “He gave up his studies for a time because he was so despondent.

The thesis “was the fruit of him reapplying himself to his scientific work,” Venning said, and Hawking “kept it beside him for the rest of his life.”

The disease eventually left Hawking almost completely paralysed. He communicated through a voice-generating computer and moved in a series of high-tech wheelchairs. One is included in the sale, with an estimated price of £10,000 to £15,000.

Proceeds from its sale will go to two charities, the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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. The auction is open for bids between October 31 and November 8.

-AAP