Stephen Hawking’s Wheelchair and Doctoral Thesis Sell in Million Pound Auction

By Catie Keck on at

A selection of work and belongings of the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking snatched hundreds of thousands of pounds per item at a recent Christie’s auction. Among the items sold were his motorised red leather wheelchair and a copy of his doctoral thesis Properties of Expanding Universes – one of five known copies – which sold for £296,750 pounds and £584,750 respectively.

The items were included in the Christie’s auction “On the Shoulders of Giants,” which ran Oct. 31 to Nov. 8 and included handwritten documents from fellow brainiacs Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and some guy named Albert Einstein. Auction items belonging to Hawking also included a copy of his book A Brief History of Time signed with his thumbprint that sold for £68,750, his Alpha Industries bomber jacket that sold for £40,000, and a collection of medals and awards that sold for £296,750.

In addition to Hawking’s personal documents and items, an original production script for Stephen Hawking’s final appearance on The Simpsons – in which he was portrayed as a disc jockey with gold chains and a Kangol hat – also sold for £6,250. An invitation to his famous Reception for Time Travellers snagged £11,250.

Photo: Frank Augstein (AP)

“Stephen Hawking was a huge personality worldwide,” Thomas Venning, head of the Books and Manuscripts department at auction house Christie’s London, told Reuters prior to the auction. “He had this amazing ability to connect with people.”

Hawking’s red chair was among one of the earliest wheelchairs he used after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was sold for nearly twenty times what it was expected to snatch at auction, and its sale will benefit both the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

According to the Guardian, the esteemed physicist’s daughter Lucy Hawking said the auction was an opportunity for his admirers to “acquire a memento of our father’s extraordinary life in the shape of a small selection of evocative and fascinating items.” [Christie’s via Associated Press]