A large part of the archive of Stephen Hawking will be donated to the nation to help his family pay millions in inheritance tax it has emerged.
Professor Hawking, who died on March 14 this year, left an estate valued at around £15 million.
Now his family have asked Christie’s, the autioneers, to value his archive so that a large proportion can be donated to the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu process which since 2011 has allowed valuable cultural works to be given instead of death duties.
It is likely to be then donated to public museums.
The auction house said it had submitted the archive to the Arts Council and an announcement of the items involved would be made soon.
Some 22 items belonging to Hawking, including his seminal work on black holes from 1974 and one of his wheelchairs is to be sold on a public online auction at Christies.
Other lots include a selection of his medals and awards, a copy of his best-selling ‘A Brief History of Time’ (1988) signed with a thumbprint, a bomber jacket, and the script for one of his appearances on The Simpsons.
Lucy Hawking, the astrophysicist’s daughter, said: “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.
“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 auction is Prof Hawking’s thesis typescript, which is expected to sell for up to £150,000. When Professor Stephen 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.
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’.
The sale is expected to raise £200,000.
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.
“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.”
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’, illustrated below.
The online sale ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ will present these offprints alongside rare and important autograph letters and manuscripts by leading scientific forebears including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. News regarding this auction will be announced in the coming days.