[Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)].

A motorised BEC Mobility wheelchair, used from the late-1980s to the mid-1990s.

Approx. 127 x 58 x 72cm. Made in England by BEC Mobility, c.1988 (serial number: 440609), covered in red and maroon leather; motor manufactured by Penny & Giles Drives Technology. [With, detached:] one metal footrest and a leather-covered cushion support. Provenance: the estate of the late Professor Stephen Hawking.

The earliest surviving example of a wheelchair used by Stephen Hawking. Hawking relied upon a series of wheelchairs from the end of the 1960s until his death; the constituent parts of the chairs were updated as his needs progressed (most importantly the electronic elements such as the motor) and two chairs were generally in rotation at any given time, to allow him the use of a back-up if required. The present example was used by Stephen Hawking from the end of the 1980s until the early years of the 1990s, before he became unable to use his hands to drive a wheelchair: photographs from the time (such as the example shown here) show this model in use with various modifications apparent, such as in the model and position of the motor.

Stephen Hawking’s rather mischievous attitude to piloting his wheelchair became legendary, both in Cambridge and further afield: having run over Prince Charles’s toes during a meeting in 1977, he is said to have regretted not doing the same to the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It was said that those who annoyed him found themselves a target, an allegation to which he responded with characteristic wit and humour: ‘A malicious rumour. I'll run over anyone who repeats it’ (Ferguson, 2011).

This lot will be offered to benefit the following charities:

The Stephen Hawking Foundation
The Stephen Hawking Foundation was established in 2015 by Professor Hawking in order to carry forward his work and ideas into the future. The Foundation seeks to support scientific research, advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and promote STEM educational initiatives for school students.

The Motor Neurone Disease Association
The Motor Neurone Disease Association is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on improving access to care, research and campaigning for those people living with or affected by MND.

This property 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.

Special notice
Please note this lot is the property of a consumer. See H1 of the Conditions of Sale.
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