Stephen Hawking Auction: Bid on an Invitation to a 2009 Party
Posted October 23, 2018 10:11 p.m. EDT
In 2009, physicist and author Stephen W. Hawking gave a party for time travelers.
Invitations were not made public until after the event. They were meant to last long enough to reach future humans who might develop the opportunity to time-travel back to the party. Perhaps they didn’t — or won’t — work: Video footage from the party showed Hawking surrounded by Champagne, snacks and balloons, sitting all alone.
Now, you can buy one of those invitations, or at least make an offer. It is one of nearly two dozen items from the estate of Hawkins, who died in March at age 76, that will go up for auction next week.
Starting Oct. 31, they will be for sale as part of a Christie’s online auction featuring items that belonged to Hawking and three other famous scientists: Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.
Most of the lots are what you might expect from renowned physicists and biologists: scientific papers, friendly correspondences and portraits. But Hawking, the most contemporary of the bunch, also left behind some more personal items including a black bomber jacket, the script from an episode of “The Simpsons” on which he appeared, and a red, motorized leather-backed wheelchair that he used in the 1980s and 90s.
Hawking, who spent most of his life steadily losing control over his muscles because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, had to stop using the red wheelchair after he lost the ability to steer it with his hands. Its estimated price at auction is between $12,600 and $18,900.
Proceeds from the sale of the wheelchair will benefit the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Hawking’s daughter, Lucy Hawking, said in a statement. Proceeds from his other lots will go to his estate.
Lucy Hawking described the items as a “unique and precious collection of personal and professional belongings,” spanning her father’s life and work.
One of the highlights of the auction will be Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. thesis, composed in 1965 and typed by his wife, Jane Wilde Hawking. Called “Properties of expanding universes,” it is about the origins of time and space as we know it.
The dissertation was signed twice by its author. Another item, a 1988 copy of his best-selling book, “A Brief History of Time,” is marked with his thumbprint as a signature.
“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,” Thomas Venning, the head of the Books and Manuscripts department at Christie’s London, said in a statement. “The lots selected for sale highlight Professor Hawking’s remarkable achievements in science alongside his unique personality and inspirational life story.”
The 52 lots also include a letter defending Darwin’s ideas about evolution, a manuscript capturing Newton’s fascination with alchemy and a book explaining Einstein’s understanding of relativity.
Some items are a little more quotidian: a loan repayment document from Newton, a letter from Darwin declining an invitation because he felt ill, and an RSVP from Einstein joking that he would be happy to attend a lunch but might not eat much because he was on a diet.
The online auction, which is titled “On the Shoulders of Giants,” will last until Nov. 8.