Back
  • Press release
  • |
  • London
  • |
  • For immediate release
  • |
  • 24 June 2020

RELEASE | Christie's Presents Eureka!

An Online Sale Highlighting the Scientific Breakthroughs of the 20th Century

Douglas Kirkland (b.1934, photographer). Stephen Hawking. 1 March 1983

London – Open for bidding from today until 16 July, Eureka! is a journey through the scientific and technological breakthroughs that have formed the modern world, and the brilliant minds that lay behind them. From Thomas Edison’s pioneering design for the lightbulb to Crick and Watson’s celebrated discovery of the structure of DNA, from a Second World War Enigma Machine to the invention of in vitro fertilisation, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking, this online auction provides collectors with an opportunity to acquire a slice of history that has shaped the world we live in.

Among the highlight lots offered is the Nobel Prize Medal awarded to British Scientist Sir Robert Edwards in 2010, for the development of human in vitro fertilisation (IVF) therapy (estimate: £500,000-800,000). Edwards’ pioneering research, alongside his two collaborators Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy, eventually led to the birth of Louise Brown on 25 July 1978, marking the first conception and birth by IVF. In the years that followed, procedures were undertaken in Australia and the USA, then across the world.

Following Christie’s successful sale of personal items from the estate of Professor Stephen Hawking in 2018’s inaugural online auction On the Shoulders of Giants which were 100% sold, bidders will also have the opportunity to purchase a number of unique items directly offered from the late physicist’s estate. Highlights include a rare Hawking portrait by Anton Corbijn, the creative director best known for the visual output of Depeche Mode and U2 (estimate: £1,000-1,500), and a Simpsons figurine of him made by Playmates Toys (estimate: £500-800). These rare items provide a remarkable insight into the cultural interests, personality and sense of fun of this extraordinary man.

Continuing the theme of pioneers and life-changing discoveries, the sale also offers seven autographed and annotated design drawings by American inventor Thomas Edison for his lightbulb and related innovations (estimate: £60,000-90,000). Each sketch testifies to Edison’s continued work on the electric lamp throughout the 1880s, as well as offering an example of the related inventions that filled his design notebooks. The online sale also features an extraordinary collection of 50 patents from famous inventor Nikola Tesla’s most fruitful period, comprising almost half of all the patents granted to him. The collection includes Tesla’s patent for the invention of the radio, one of the key technological discoveries of the last century; for the ‘Tesla coil’, which was the basis of his method of wireless power transmission; for remote-controlled devices, which anticipated robotics; and those for his systems of power transmission, AC motors, generators, incandescent arc-lighting, transformers, etc. (estimate: £120,000-160,000). These patents are the originals issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Eureka! will also feature one of the rarest and hardest to decrypt Enigma Machines, a four-rotor (“M4”) used by the German Navy's U-boat fleet to send encrypted messages during WWII, which Allied efforts tried to break under the leadership of Alan Turning at Bletchey Park and of Joe Desch in Dayton, Ohio. It is thought that fewer than 100 M4 Enigmas survived the war as they were produced in much smaller quantities than the 3-rotor machines (estimate: £200,000-300,000).

Sophie Hopkins, Christie’s Specialist in Manuscripts and Archives, London, comments, “The Christie’s Books & Manuscripts department has hit upon a winning formula with our online science sales, which routinely attract hundreds of buyers and bidders from across the globe – many of them new to the auction world and to book collecting – all drawn by a carefully curated selection of autograph material, printed books, photographs and association objects from the most brilliant scientific minds of the modern age. For this sixth iteration in our hugely successful series, we are delighted to offer rare items from revolutionary thinkers of the 20th century – from Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman and another engaging tranche of material from the personal collection of Professor Stephen Hawking, this sale is a rare opportunity to acquire a range of unique items chronicling brilliant minds’ lives and their visionary work.”

 

Note to editors:
Christie’s November 2018 online auction On the Shoulders of Giants realised a total of £1,824,375. The sale’s top lot was Stephen Hawking’s original dissertation which fetched £584,750 and the 22 lots from the estate of Stephen Hawking were 100% sold, realising £1,384,625, 7 times more than the pre-sale estimate. Further highlights included Stephen Hawking’s medals, which achieved £296,750 and one of his iconic wheelchairs, which made £296,750 to benefit Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. These three lots were the most valuable lots achieved in a Christie’s online auction in 2018 for the Classical Art category.

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). Christie's is also recognised as a reference for prestigious single owner collections, having auctioned 8 of the 10 most important collections in history.

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: www.christies.com or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.