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Stephen Hawking Letters Donated by UMD Professor Fetch Nearly $300K for Endowment

By Maryland Today Staff

Letters from the famed British scientist Stephen Hawking to a friend and fellow physicist at the University of Maryland sold today for far beyond their estimated values in a Christie’s online auction—including one letter by a factor of more than 10.

Read more about the contents of the letters, ranging from theoretical ponderings to family updates, here.

In one auction, a handwritten note from Hawking, who died last year, to physics Emeritus Professor Charles Misner brought in approximately $206,000, compared to the auction house’s forecasted sale price of $12,600 to $18,900. Several other typed letters sold for up to five times their estimated value, bringing in a total of approximately $290,000.

By contrast, a 1729 first English edition of Newton's Principia Mathematica, one of the key works in the history of science, brought in just over $55,000 in the auction of items from the history of science and technology. Only the first Apple computer fetched a higher price.

Misner donated the letters to establish the Joseph Weber Endowment for Gravitational Physics in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. It honors the late UMD physics Professor Joseph Weber, the first scientist to begin a major project to detect gravitational waves in space-time.

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