Christie's Auctions Off Stephen Hawking's Old Wheelchair--and One of His 'Simpsons' Scripts

Friday, 09 November 2018 - 1:28PM
NASA
Friday, 09 November 2018 - 1:28PM
Christie's Auctions Off Stephen Hawking's Old Wheelchair--and One of His 'Simpsons' Scripts
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NASA/Paul E. Alers
If Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the Michael Jordan of astrophysics, Stephen Hawking was the Muhammad Ali. Thousands lined the streets for his funeral, and everyone from Briane Greene to Jim Carrey mourned his passing. Recently, Christies' auction house sold off some major Hawking memorabilia, including an original invitation to his 'Reception for Time Travellers' ($14,682) and a copy of his book A Brief History of Time, signed with his thumbprint ($89,751). Two of the most interesting pieces, however, were his red wheelchair (the earliest surviving one) and an original production script for his final appearance on The Simpsons.

According to Gizmodo, the red leather wheelchair was sold for $387,402, which was several times the price it was expected to fetch. The Simpsons script, on the other hand, managed to sell for $8,157. FYI, Hawking's lines in the script include "Oh yeah, break it down for me fellas. A brief history of rhyme," which is spoken while Hawking's character does rapid donuts in his wheelchair and scratches on a turntable, all while wearing a gold chain necklace and a DJ tracksuit. This, of course, was during a musical number sung by Flight of the Conchords.



A number of other interesting items were sold, including a collection of Hawking's medals and awards and one of his papers on black holes. The biggest draw, however, was one of only five remaining copies of his doctoral thesis, titled Properties of Expanding Universes, which sold for a whopping $763,381. For comparison, a collection of Isaac Newton's writings that delved into his fascination with alchemy sold at the same auction (billed "On the Shoulders of Giants") for $129,711.

To commemorate the auction, Christie's wrote a short article outlining each item, which included this passage: "...Stephen Hawking died on 14 March 2018. For physicists, 14 March is no ordinary date: it is not only international Pi Day (because in month/day format it forms the first three digits of the mathematical constant π – 3/14) – but also Albert Einstein's birthday. You would almost think he had planned it: perhaps Hawking did know how to play tricks with time after all."
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