Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair and a set of his medals and awards have been sold for a combined total of nearly £600,000, while a copy of his PhD thesis raised almost that amount on its own, at an auction of items belonging to him and other celebrated scientists.

The sale, run online by Christie’s and including 52 lots, raised more than £1.8m on Thursday. It included items belonging to Hawking, as well as others linked to Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

The dissertation was expected to sell for up to £150,000 but the buyer eventually bid £584,750 to secure it. Hawking’s motorised wheelchair sold for £296,750, as did the set of seven awards, including the Albert Einstein award for achievement in natural sciences. One of Newton’s manuscripts sold for £100,000, a letter written by Darwin went for £50,000 and a bidder agreed to pay £32,500 for one of Einstein’s manuscripts.

The sale was named “On the Shoulders of Giants” – a reference to the famous phrase once used by Newton of his own achievements: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, 1988, first American edition, which was signed with a thumbprint.



Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, 1988, first American edition, which was signed with a thumbprint. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/REX/Shutterstock

The money raised by the sale of the wheelchair will go to the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Hawking lived most of his life with motor neurone disease, before dying at the age of 76 in March.

Also on sale were personal copies of the British physicist’s papers, such as a copy of his 1974 article, Black Hole Explosions?, in which he predicted that black holes would release blackbody radiation, known as Hawking Radiation. The paper sold for £7,500.

A copy of his bestselling A Brief History of Time, signed with a thumbprint, sold for £68,750, a bomber jacket went for £40,000 and the script for one of his appearances on The Simpsons sold for £6,250.

Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, said the sale gave “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”.

Hawking’s children hope to preserve his scientific archive for the nation. Christie’s was handling the negotiations to hand it over to British authorities in lieu of inheritance tax.

Other notable items included a document signed by Isaac Newton repaying a loan, which sold for £56,250, a letter from Charles Darwin described as his “glowing review of the naturalist’s report on the Challenger expedition”, which sold for £15,000, and a copy of Einstein’s views on Newton, which was once owned by the former’s son and sold for £13,750.



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