Stephen Hawking's wheelchair auctioned for a whopping $393,000

Personal effects owned by famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, including his wheelchair and doctoral thesis, have sold for a combined total of over a million pounds (about $1,306,275, AU$1,801,515) at auction. It had been expected to fetch £10,000 to £15,000. Proceeds will go to the Stephen Hawking Foundation, which facilitates research into cosmology and astrophysics, as well as the Motor Neurone Disease Association, supporting research and campaigning for those living with the disease.

A signed copy of his 117-page dissertation - one of only five - titled Properties of Expanding Universes from 1965 secured the top price of £584,750.

Hawking passed away at the age of 76 back on March 14, 2018 after suffering from a motor neurone disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) for over 55 years. It collected more than £1.8 million in total.

The wheelchair raised $387,480 (£296,750), nearly 20 times more than pre-auction estimates of up to $19,500 (£15,000). His doctors gave him just two years to live, and the devastating news led him to lose hope and quit his studies.

"By the late 1980s he was at the height of his fame, and given his extensive travels to conferences and public events, as well as the scope of his intellectual explorations of space-time, this is arguably both literally and metaphorically the most-traveled wheelchair in history".

Prof Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time, which he signed with a thumbprint in 1988, sold for £68,750, way above the £3,000 guide price.

It was among 22 items on offer from Prof Hawking's estate in an online auction that began Oct 31.

A script for his appearance on The Simpsons sold for £6,250.

Other personal belongings included a bomber jacket, which fetched $52,200 (£40,000) and a collection of his medals, which went for $387,360 (£296,750).

Sophie Hopkins, specialist in manuscripts and archives at Christie's, said much of the collection was "incredibly iconic".

  • Joey Payne