The work of the late British scientist Stephen Hawking – from seminal papers on theoretical physics to scripts for “The Simpsons” – and objects such as his personalised wheelchairs are to be preserved, the British government said.
Hawking, who gained international acclaim for his work on black holes, died in March 2018 aged 76 after spending a lifetime probing the origins of the universe.
He had suffered from a wasting motor neurone disease from the age of 21 which meant he was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life and forced to use an electronic voice synthesiser.
Under an “Acceptance in Lieu” agreement announced on Wednesday, his vast archive of scientific and personal papers will go to the University Library in Cambridge, where he lived, while the entire contents of his office will be passed to the Science Museum Group.
“It was really, really important to him during his lifetime that science be opened up to the widest possible number of people, and sort of be democratised and not be the preserve of the elite few,” Hawking’s son Tim said.
“So I think this body of work will help – hopefully inspire – the next generation to come.”
Hawking shot to international fame after the 1988 publication of ““A Brief History of Time”, one of the most complex books ever to achieve mass appeal.
But he also gained popular recognition, appearing as himself on the television show “Star Trek: Next Generation” while his cartoon caricature appeared on “The Simpsons”.
His 10,000-page archive features photos, papers and correspondence, including letters from former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary.
“At the time, I’d known that my father had cultivated a warm relationship with the Clintons, and because of his political orientation he was always… I suppose he was much more sort of in harmony with Democrat presidents than Republicans,” Tim Hawking said.
Hawking’s archive joins those of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at the library, just as his ashes were interred at London’s Westminster Abbey between those two other giants of British science.
The contents of his office, including innovative wheelchairs, medals and memorabilia, will be preserved in the Science Museum Group Collection, with some elements going on display at the Science Museum in London in early 2022.