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Stephen Hawking’s Earliest Surviving Motorized Wheelchair is for Sale

Stephen Hawking died this March, aged 76. He was supposed to live until about the age of 23 because of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis he was suffering from, according to the doctors of the 1960s. Because he didn’t die, he reshaped our understanding of the Universe. And he did so from a wheelchair.
Stephen Hawking's motorized BEC Mobility wheelchair 1 photo
Hawking’s affliction is a disease which causes the death of neurons that control voluntary muscles. In his case, the disease’s progress was a slow one that didn’t kill him in two years after being diagnosed, as doctors claimed, but made him dependant on wheelchairs and voice synthesizers for most of his life.

A motorized BEC Mobility wheelchair, currently on sale on the Christie's website, was one of the many Hawking used during his life. In fact, says the auction house, it is the earliest surviving example of such machines used by the theoretical physicist.

The chair was used by Hawking from the late-1980s to the mid-1990s. It is powered by a Penny & Giles Drives Technology motor, has a metal footrest and comes in red and maroon leather. 

This particular chair is the last one used by Hawking while he still had control of his hands and before needing more sophisticated technology. It was offered for sale by the representatives of Hawking’s estate.

Christie's hopes to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000 for it during the sale which opens on October 31. The money will go to two charities, The Stephen Hawking Foundation and The Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Christie's warns the wheelchair is “sold as a collector’s item and not as an item for medical use.“

“Christie’s makes no promise that the property is of satisfactory quality or fit for any purpose and sells the property with no warranty except for title,” the auction house says.

Alongside the wheelchair, the auction will include several Hawking-owned objects, including his medals and awards, his bomber jacket and countless of his original works.


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