Stephen Hawking's PhD Thesis, Wheelchair Sell in Multimillion-Dollar Auction

One of five known original copies of Stephen Hawking's thesis is put up for auction.
One of five known original copies of Stephen Hawking's thesis is put up for auction. (Image credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2018)

Stephen Hawking's wheelchair has sold for more than $387,000 (£296,750) at auction in the U.K., according to Christie's.

The motorized, red leather chair — which Hawking used between the late 1980s and mid 1990s, several decades after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) but before he lost use of his hands — was part of a large collection of Hawking and other scientific memorabilia sold via an online auction running between Oct. 31 and today (Nov. 8).

The auction, titled "On the Shoulders of Giants," also included handwritten documents penned by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. In total, the auction raised more than £1.8 million (more than $2.35 million) — however, it was Hawking's artifacts that drove the highest bids.

The big winner of the day was Hawking's hand-signed PhD thesis, "Properties of Expanding Universes," which sold for £584,750 ($763,819). Hawking submitted this thesis to the University of Cambridge in October 1965, following a period of depression when he was first diagnosed with ALS (known as motor neurone disease in the U.K.). In 1962, doctors predicted Hawking would live for only another two years (in fact, he lived for another five decades, dying at the age of 76 this March).

Other Hawking memorabilia sold at the auction included the script from an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Hawking appeared as a guest star (sale price: £6,250 / $8,164), a copy of Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" signed with the author's thumbprint (£68,750 / $89,803), a collection of awards and medals (£296,750 / $387,624), the black bomber jacket he wore in a 2016 documentary (£40,000 / $52,249) and an artist's proof of an invitation to Hawking's famous 2009 party where only time travelers were invited (£11,250 / $14,695).

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Originally published on Live Science.

Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest,, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.