Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis sell for over $1.3 million at auction

Personal effects owned by famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, including his wheelchair and doctoral thesis, have sold for a combined total of over a million pounds (about $1,306,275, AU$1,801,515) at auction. 

The objects sold at an online event run by British auction house Christie’s and dubbed the “On the Shoulders of Giants” sale. It featured pieces belonging to other celebrated thinkers including Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.

In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neuron disease that causes nerve cells controlling muscles to waste away. Originally given just two years to live, Hawking lived for 55 years following his diagnosis, using a wheelchair for the vast majority of his life, before his death on March 14 at 76.   

Hawking’s motorized wheelchair sold for 296,750 pounds (roughly $387,000, AU$534,600) while a copy of his thesis, “Properties of Expanding Universes”, published in 1966 by Cambridge University and detailing theories on the birth and expansion of the universe and gravitational radiation, was snapped up for 584,750 pounds (roughly $765,000, AU$763,640). 

Professor Hawking’s daughter Lucy said the sale gave “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.”

In total, the auction, which included 52 lots, raised more than 1.8 million pounds (roughly $2.35 million, AU$3.24 million). Proceeds will go to the Stephen Hawking Foundation, which facilitates research into cosmology and astrophysics, as well as the Motor Neurone Disease Association, supporting research and campaigning for those living with the disease. 

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