WTF Fun Fact 13510 – Stephen Hawking’s Wheelchair

Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair was auctioned off for a staggering $387,000 in 2018.

In addition to his groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of the universe, Hawking’s name evokes an image of a man in a wheelchair, speaking through a voice synthesizer—a testament to his fierce determination and willpower in the face of a debilitating motor neuron disease.

Stephen Hawking and His Legacy

Before diving into the story of the iconic wheelchair, it’s essential to grasp the breadth of Hawking’s influence. Born in 1942, he made substantial contributions to cosmology, particularly in black hole dynamics and the nature of the universe.

His best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, made intricate cosmological concepts accessible to the general public, ensuring his place not just within the scientific community but also in popular culture.

Hawking’s motor neuron disease diagnosis at the age of 21 was a life-altering moment. Doctors predicted a short lifespan, but he surpassed all expectations by living till the age of 76.

As the disease progressed, mobility became a challenge, and the wheelchair became an integral part of his life. It wasn’t just a tool for movement; it became synonymous with his identity, symbolizing his resilience and the human spirit’s triumph over adversity.

Auctioning Stephen Hawking’s Wheelchair

In 2018, Christie’s auction house in London announced “On the Shoulders of Giants,” an auction featuring items belonging to several renowned scientists, including Hawking. The most poignant item was undoubtedly Hawking’s wheelchair, a piece of modern history.

The wheelchair, used by Hawking in the late 1980s and early 1990s, garnered significant attention. While it was an older model and not the high-tech version he used later in life, its historical and symbolic value was immense. The mere fact that such a personal item from a living legend was up for grabs drew significant global attention.

Hawking’s decision to auction his wheelchair was rooted in his commitment to giving back to the community. The proceeds from the sale were designated for two charitable causes close to his heart: The Stephen Hawking Foundation, which supports neurological research and promotes science education, and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, dedicated to supporting individuals like Hawking who face the challenges of this condition.

Bidding on History

The auction saw fervent bidding, with the wheelchair eventually selling for approximately $387,000 – a figure far surpassing initial estimates. The winning bid was not just for a mobility device but a piece of history. The buyer, whose identity remained anonymous, now owned a symbol of determination, brilliance, and the indomitable human spirit.

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Source: “Stephen Hawking’s Wheelchair and Thesis Fetch More Than $1 Million at Auction” — The New York Times


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