Christie’s is to present a Stephen Hawking auction of 22 lots from the estate of the late legendary physicist who died on March 14 this year.
The items from the scientist’s estate will be available in an online sale entitled ‘On the Shoulders of Giants‘, taking place between October 31 and November 8.
The lots offered range from the scientist’s own printed copies (offprints) of his most important papers, including his seminal ‘Black hole explosions’ of 1974, to a selection of his medals and awards.
There is also a copy of his best-selling ‘A Brief History of Time‘ from 1988, signed with his thumbprint. Elsewhere, a bomber jacket that belonged to Hawking, and the script from one of his appearances on The Simpsons will also be offered.
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.
Estimates at the auction start as low as £100.
Thomas Venning, Head of the Books and Manuscripts department, Christie’s London comments, “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.”
He continued, “The lots selected for sale highlight Professor Hawking’s remarkable achievements in science alongside his unique personality and inspirational life story. 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-travelled wheelchairs in history.”
The scientist’s daughter, Lucy Hawking, said “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. We hope to be able to offer our father’s archive to the nation through the ‘Acceptance in Lieu’ process as we feel it is a huge part of his legacy but also of the history of science in this country.”
The Acceptance in Lieu scheme enables those with a liability for inheritance tax to pay that liability with heritage property. Professor Hawking’s scientific archive will be offered ‘in lieu’ in its entirety, together with the contents of his office. The archive and office have significant importance for UK history and national life and for the study of scientific development.”
We are also giving 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 addition, we will be auctioning one of our father’s historic wheelchairs, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Stephen Hawking Foundation.”
A highlight of the group is Hawking’s thesis typescript, an opportunity not to be missed for collectors, estimated at £100,000-150,000). When Professor 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 offer one of only five original copies of his thesis alongside early editions, which celebrate the scientist’s genius.
When he wrote his thesis in October 1965, Hawking was already suffering with 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’..
The sale will present these offprints alongside rare and important autograph letters and manuscripts by leading scientific forebears including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.