• Press release
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  • For immediate release
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  • 27 May 2021


Left: Stephen Hawking. Autograph manuscript, ‘The Event Horizon’, [1972] Right: Fred Cuming RA, Stephen Hawking

LONDON - A treasure trove of archive papers and personal objects belonging to the late Professor Stephen Hawking have been acquired by two leading UK cultural institutions, facilitated through Christie’s Heritage and Taxation Advisory Service.

Following an Acceptance In Lieu (AIL) agreement between the Hawking Estate and the UK Government, and negotiated by Christie’s Heritage and Taxation Advisory Service, the archive of Professor Stephen Hawking’s scientific and personal papers will remain in Cambridge at the University Library. The entire contents of Hawking’s office will be preserved as part of the Science Museum Group Collection, with selected highlights going on display at the Science Museum in 2022.

Professor Hawking’s archive contains letters dating from 1944-2008, a first draft of A Brief History of Time, film and tv scripts and autograph scientific manuscripts from the early phase of his brilliant career. Also included is a large collection of photographs, papers and his correspondence with Popes, US Presidents and leading scientists of the age, including Nobel Prize winners Kip Thorne and Roger Penrose. The archive will be made available to the current and future generations of scientists continuing his ground-breaking work in theoretical physics, and will provide future biographers and science historians with an extraordinary gateway and insight into Hawking’s life and work.

Thomas Venning, Head of Christie’s Books & Manuscripts, and James Hyslop, Head of Christie’s Science & Natural History: “It has been a huge privilege for Christie’s to facilitate the acquisition of Stephen Hawking’s office and archive the Science Museum Group and Cambridge University Library, negotiated by Christie’s Heritage and Taxation Advisory Service, and led by Ruth Cornett. The two collections highlight Professor Hawking’s remarkable achievements in science, alongside his unique personality and inspirational life story. We are delighted that these incredible objects will be appreciated by global audiences and provide future generations of scientists a rare insight into one of the most brilliant minds of the last half-century.

The remarkable contents of Hawking’s office – comprising his personal reference library, innovative wheelchairs and communications equipment, medals, memorabilia and even the office furniture – will join the Science Museum Group Collection, helping inspire future generations. Hawking’s office was filled with memorabilia and mementos, and items including the coxing blazer he wore as an undergraduate, a personalised Simpson’s letterman jacket,  photographs with heads of state and mementoes from appearances on The Simpsons and Star Trek. Hawking received many awards and medals which have also been acquired. These include the prestigious Franklin medal (previously awarded to Edison and Einstein), the Companion of The Order of The British Empire, the Papal Medal and the Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award. Selected highlights from Hawking’s office will go on public view in a new display at the Science Museum in early 2022. Later next year, global audiences will be able to explore hundreds of remarkable items from Hawking’s working life when this significant acquisition is catalogued, photographed and published to the Science Museum Group's online collection.

The negotiation follows the 2018 Christie’s auction of 22 lots from the Estate of Stephen Hawking, which were 100% sold and included the sale of one of Hawking’s wheelchairs, which realised £296,750 to benefit Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

For nearly 50 years, Christie’s Heritage & Taxation Advisory Service has built up extensive experience, helping numerous Christie’s clients with transactions that have resulted in over 10,000 chattels of pre-eminent national interest being acquired by public museums, galleries or institutions, through a private treaty sale or in lieu of inheritance tax or other death duties.

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