From University of Cambridge (UK) via Science Alert (AU) : “Stephen Hawking’s Priceless Scientific Works to Be Preserved in Special Archive”

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From University of Cambridge (UK)



Science Alert (AU)

1 JUNE 2021

Credit: University of Cambridge.

The legacy of one of the brightest stars in the physics firmament has been secured.

Around 10,000 pages of the writings and other papers of legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking will be preserved in a special archive by the Cambridge University Library in the UK. This will include a digitization project, to be made freely available online.

In addition, Hawking’s office and personal items have been acquired by the UK Science Museum.

The two acquisitions have been made as part of a financial agreement, in which heirs to an estate can offset their inheritance tax by donating significant items to the country. In this case, the papers have been valued at £2.8 million (almost US$4 million), and the office at £1.4 million.

Of course, these sums are vastly exceeded by the priceless cultural value of Professor Hawking’s work. No scientist operates in a vacuum, but Hawking is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientific minds in history.

Having access to his personal papers – including an early draft of his best-selling popular science book, A Brief History of Time – gives us an intimate glimpse at how this startling mind worked.

“The archive allows us to step inside Stephen’s mind and to travel with him around the cosmos to, as he said, ‘better understand our place in the Universe’,” said Cambridge University Librarian Jessica Gardner.

“It gives extraordinary insight into the evolution of Stephen’s scientific life, from childhood to research student, from disability activist to ground-breaking, world-renowned scientist.”

The collection of personal items, to be housed at the Science Museum, include voice synthesizers, six personalized wheelchairs, reference books, Star Trek memorabilia, and a rowing jacket a young Hawking was wearing when thrown into a river.

The Science Museum plans to put some of these items on display, and eventually reconstruct the office as Hawking used it.

“By preserving Hawking’s office and its historic contents as part of the Science Museum Group Collection, future generations will be able to delve deep into the world of a world-leading theoretical physicist who defied the laws of medicine to rewrite the laws of physics and touch the heart of millions,” said Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group.

A blackboard in Professor Hawking’s former department. Credit: University of Cambridge.

The papers include correspondences, drafts of scientific papers and essays, photographs of Hawking with notable figures, and scripts from The Simpsons (on which Hawking guest-starred four times).

These will be housed alongside the archives of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, between whose graves Hawking’s ashes were interred, following his death at the age of 76 in 2018.

“Our hope is that our father’s scientific career will continue to inspire generations of future scientists to find new insights into the nature of the universe, based on the outstanding work he produced in his lifetime,” said Hawking’s children, Lucy, Tim, and Robert, in a statement.

“For decades, our father was part of the fabric of life at Cambridge University and was a distinguished fellow of the Science Museum, so it seems right that these relationships, so dear to him and us, will continue for many more years to come.”

Who knows what future generations will be able to achieve, with the shoulders of this giant on which to stand.

You can learn more about the archive on the Cambridge University website.

The Stephen Hawking Archive.

See the full article here .


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The University of Cambridge (UK) [legally The Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Cambridge] is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford(UK) after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 semi-autonomous constituent colleges and over 150 academic departments, faculties and other institutions organised into six schools. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. All students are members of a college. Cambridge does not have a main campus and its colleges and central facilities are scattered throughout the city. Undergraduate teaching at Cambridge is organised around weekly small-group supervisions in the colleges – a feature unique to the Oxbridge system. These are complemented by classes, lectures, seminars, laboratory work and occasionally further supervisions provided by the central university faculties and departments. Postgraduate teaching is provided predominantly centrally.

Cambridge University Press a department of the university is the oldest university press in the world and currently the second largest university press in the world. Cambridge Assessment also a department of the university is one of the world’s leading examining bodies and provides assessment to over eight million learners globally every year. The university also operates eight cultural and scientific museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as a botanic garden. Cambridge’s libraries – of which there are 116 – hold a total of around 16 million books, around nine million of which are in Cambridge University Library, a legal deposit library. The university is home to – but independent of – the Cambridge Union – the world’s oldest debating society. The university is closely linked to the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fe”. It is the central member of Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre based around the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

By both endowment size and consolidated assets Cambridge is the wealthiest university in the United Kingdom. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2019, the central university – excluding colleges – had a total income of £2.192 billion of which £592.4 million was from research grants and contracts. At the end of the same financial year the central university and colleges together possessed a combined endowment of over £7.1 billion and overall consolidated net assets (excluding “immaterial” historical assets) of over £12.5 billion. It is a member of numerous associations and forms part of the ‘golden triangle’ of English universities.

Cambridge has educated many notable alumni including eminent mathematicians; scientists; politicians; lawyers; philosophers; writers; actors; monarchs and other heads of state. As of October 2020 121 Nobel laureates; 11 Fields Medalists; 7 Turing Award winners; and 14 British prime ministers have been affiliated with Cambridge as students; alumni; faculty or research staff. University alumni have won 194 Olympic medals.


By the late 12th century the Cambridge area already had a scholarly and ecclesiastical reputation due to monks from the nearby bishopric church of Ely. However it was an incident at Oxford which is most likely to have led to the establishment of the university: three Oxford scholars were hanged by the town authorities for the death of a woman without consulting the ecclesiastical authorities who would normally take precedence (and pardon the scholars) in such a case; but were at that time in conflict with King John. Fearing more violence from the townsfolk scholars from the University of Oxford started to move away to cities such as Paris; Reading; and Cambridge. Subsequently enough scholars remained in Cambridge to form the nucleus of a new university when it had become safe enough for academia to resume at Oxford. In order to claim precedence it is common for Cambridge to trace its founding to the 1231 charter from Henry III granting it the right to discipline its own members (ius non-trahi extra) and an exemption from some taxes; Oxford was not granted similar rights until 1248.

A bull in 1233 from Pope Gregory IX gave graduates from Cambridge the right to teach “everywhere in Christendom”. After Cambridge was described as a studium generale in a letter from Pope Nicholas IV in 1290 and confirmed as such in a bull by Pope John XXII in 1318 it became common for researchers from other European medieval universities to visit Cambridge to study or to give lecture courses.

Foundation of the colleges

The colleges at the University of Cambridge were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries; but they have left some traces, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.

Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely, founded Peterhouse – Cambridge’s first college in 1284. Many colleges were founded during the 14th and 15th centuries but colleges continued to be established until modern times. There was a gap of 204 years between the founding of Sidney Sussex in 1596 and that of Downing in 1800. The most recently established college is Robinson built in the late 1970s. However Homerton College only achieved full university college status in March 2010 making it the newest full college (it was previously an “Approved Society” affiliated with the university).

In medieval times many colleges were founded so that their members would pray for the souls of the founders and were often associated with chapels or abbeys. The colleges’ focus changed in 1536 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII ordered the university to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching “scholastic philosophy”. In response, colleges changed their curricula away from canon law and towards the classics; the Bible; and mathematics.

Nearly a century later the university was at the centre of a Protestant schism. Many nobles, intellectuals and even commoners saw the ways of the Church of England as too similar to the Catholic Church and felt that it was used by the Crown to usurp the rightful powers of the counties. East Anglia was the centre of what became the Puritan movement. In Cambridge the movement was particularly strong at Emmanuel; St Catharine’s Hall; Sidney Sussex; and Christ’s College. They produced many “non-conformist” graduates who, greatly influenced by social position or preaching left for New England and especially the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Great Migration decade of the 1630s. Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War and head of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660), attended Sidney Sussex.

Modern period

After the Cambridge University Act formalised the organisational structure of the university the study of many new subjects was introduced e.g. theology, history and modern languages. Resources necessary for new courses in the arts architecture and archaeology were donated by Viscount Fitzwilliam of Trinity College who also founded the Fitzwilliam Museum. In 1847 Prince Albert was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge after a close contest with the Earl of Powis. Albert used his position as Chancellor to campaign successfully for reformed and more modern university curricula, expanding the subjects taught beyond the traditional mathematics and classics to include modern history and the natural sciences. Between 1896 and 1902 Downing College sold part of its land to build the Downing Site with new scientific laboratories for anatomy, genetics, and Earth sciences. During the same period the New Museums Site was erected including the Cavendish Laboratory which has since moved to the West Cambridge Site and other departments for chemistry and medicine.

The University of Cambridge began to award PhD degrees in the first third of the 20th century. The first Cambridge PhD in mathematics was awarded in 1924.

In the First World War 13,878 members of the university served and 2,470 were killed. Teaching and the fees it earned came almost to a stop and severe financial difficulties followed. As a consequence the university first received systematic state support in 1919 and a Royal Commission appointed in 1920 recommended that the university (but not the colleges) should receive an annual grant. Following the Second World War the university saw a rapid expansion of student numbers and available places; this was partly due to the success and popularity gained by many Cambridge scientists.