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May 27, 2021

A collection of Professor Stephen Hawking's personal belongings and papers has been acquired by two UK cultural institutions, acting as a time capsule of his life and career.

It follows an agreement between the government, the Science Museum Group and Cambridge University Library.

The entire contents of his office will be preserved at London's Science Museum, with selected highlights going on display early in 2022.

It will include one of his first voice synthesisers, one of his last wheelchairs, scientific bets signed with his thumbprint, and letters he wrote to popes, presidents and scientists.

Also at the museum will be a pair of his glasses, which had a sensor on that he controlled by twitching his cheek.

The earliest generations of his communications equipment were controlled by finger clickers but by 2008 he was no longer able to use his fingers so they developed a system on the spectacles.

The glasses had an infrared LED and receiver and they plugged into an analogue blink switch which converted the signals into an on-off switch.

Stephen Hawking is known as one of the greatest scientific minds of the last century.

His daughter Lucy Hawking said "of the really fascinating things about his life is how many different strands there were", and that the collections paint a portrait of the rounded person he was.

"He was a scientist, he was a campaigner, he was a very courageous man, he was a medical miracle, he was a friend to all sorts of extraordinary people. And yet, of course, he was our father as well."

Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group says that by preserving the items, future generations will be able to delve into the mind of a scientist who "defied the laws of medicine to rewrite the laws of physics and touch the heart of millions".

The archive at the University of Cambridge contains 10,000 pages of Prof Hawking's work, and will live under the same roof as the papers of his idol Sir Isaac Newton and the work of Charles Darwin. It means three of the most important scientific archives will be available in one place.

After having lived with motor neurone disease for more than five decades, Mr Hawking died at the age of 76 in March 2018 and his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey alongside Sir Isaac.

He began his graduate career at the University of Cambridge and occupied an office there until shortly before his death.

The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope said he was "an iconic figure not just in this university and city, but around the world, an inspiration to all who met him, and admired by many, including me".

When his PhD thesis was made freely available in 2017, Mr Hawking said: "Each generation stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, just as I did as a young PhD student in Cambridge."

It is hoped the vast scientific treasure trove will serve today's young scientists, and perhaps inspire the next Professor Stephen Hawking.

Source: Sky News
Image Source: Getty Images