Hawking thesis, wheelchair auction raises astronomical sum

Stephen Hawking could be in the running to appear on the new £50

Image Stephen Hawking died in March at the age of 76

Famed for his work exploring the origins of the universe, Professor Hawking died in March at the age of 76 after spending most of his life confined to a wheelchair with motor neurone disease.

"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.

A collection of Hawking's medals and awards fetched almost £300,000 ($392,000) more-again well above the expected price.

In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neuron disease that causes nerve cells controlling muscles to waste away.

Proceeds from the sale of the red leather wheelchair will go to the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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When Cambridge finally made Hawking's thesis available to download in 2017, it was viewed more than 60,000 times in 24 hours and public interest completely crashed the university's server.

The red motorised wheelchair once used by Hawking went under the stamp for $391.7 million while his Cambridge thesis titled "Properties of Expanding Universes" was sold for $7.6 million.

Auctioneer Christie's had 20 other items associated with the late physicist up for grabs, including a script from one of his appearances on The Simpsons, which went for £6,250. It had been expected to fetch 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds.

The second most expensive item in the collection is the beloved physicist's former wheelchair, which raised $390,000. Along with inclusion of Hawking's personal belongings, the auction also included belongings linked to scientists including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, wrote The Guardian. "The objective of the sale was to raise money for Stephen Hawking's Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association".

Hawking's children hope to preserve his scientific archive for the nation.

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