The hammer is down on Professor Stephen Hawking’s earliest surviving powerchair in an auction that saw it sold for almost £300,000 this afternoon.
The powerchair’s guide price was set between £10,000 and £15,000 but a total of 50 bids saw it sold for £296,750 to an undisclosed buyer in the online auction, hosted by Christie’s.
The realised price includes a buyer’s premium of £56,750.
The physicist’s powerchair was made by BEC Mobility and has been dubbed “literally and metaphorically the most-travelled wheelchair in history”.
It is now also probably the most expensive wheelchair in history.
The proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Hawking, who died in March, had initially resisted the idea of using a wheelchair in the late 1960s but by the late 1970s he was using motorised models, and was renowned for being “a rather wild driver”, according to Christie’s.
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 chair 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.
By the late 1980s he was at the height of his fame, and given his extensive travels to conferences and public events, as well as the scope of his intellectual explorations of space-time, Christie’s said the wheelchair “is arguably both literally and metaphorically the most-travelled wheelchair in history”.
Hawking was made completely paralysed by a form of motor neurone disease and his death earlier this year was met with masses of tributes from colleagues, celebrities and the public.
Permobil supplied Hawking with some of his later and more famous chairs, including an F3 powerchair which it supplied in 2016. Prior to that he used a Permobil C350.
Permobil paid tribute to the world-renowned scientist when he died and recalled the day he was supplied with his F3 in an exclusive AMP report.
Image credit: Christie’s