Hawking Auction Gives Support to Nonprofits

Stephen Hawking’s namesake foundation, along with the Motor Neurone Disease Association, will receive proceeds from an auction of his personal effects, including one of his wheelchairs, beginning later this month.

The world of celebrity auctions has been fascinating lately—just look at what happened to Banksy’s painting!—but the latest offering might be the most interesting of all. And the proceeds will go to an association.

This week, the auction house Christie’s announced that several personal effects of famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking will be offered for sale online—including his earliest surviving wheelchair.

“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,” Thomas Venning, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s London, said in a news release.

Other items in the auction, which will run from October 31 to November 8, include his Ph.D. thesis, a copy of his book A Brief History of Time signed with a thumbprint, and a script from an episode of The Simpsons in which Hawking appeared. (While not an actor, Hawking was a TV mainstay: He appeared in four Simpsons episodes over the span of a decade; he also appeared in numerous episodes of The Big Bang Theory and an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

Hawking, who died in March, lived most of his life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Fittingly, proceeds from the auction, which is expected to raise millions, will go to two charities: the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. (ALS is a type of motor neurone disease and is commonly referred to by that name in some countries, including Great Britain, Hawking’s home country.)

“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,” said his daughter, Lucy, in the release.

Hawking gained fame beyond scientific circles for his ability to live a successful public life despite his disease, as well as for his skill in conveying complex ideas simply. A Brief History of Time was a blockbuster title when it was released three decades ago.

Befitting his status as a scientific icon, Hawkings’ belongings will be auctioned as part of a larger program that also includes items owned by Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein.

Hawking, shown at a press conference after returning from spaceflight in 2007. (NASA)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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