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Stephen Hawking: A 70th Birthday Celebration at the Science Museum

Published 27 January 2012

To mark distinguished physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday, the Science Museum has opened a new display in his honour.

Fittingly situated in the Exploring Space section of the Science Museum’s ground floor, the display looks to celebrate not only Hawking’s birthday, but also ‘his life and achievements’. Although small, the mini-exhibition packs a punch, adorned in a deep, regal purple colour – fitting for science royalty. There is a cosiness about the display, decked out with a number of exciting and unusual memorabilia. These include a never-before-publicly-seen portrait of Hawking by David Hockney, a selection of illustrious prizes won by Professor Hawking and also the professor’s annotated script from his 1999 guest appearance on ‘The Simpsons’. The eclectic mix of exhibits also includes the suit worn by Hawking during his experience in a zero-gravity flight in 2007 and an interesting collection of academic exhibits, including his drawing of the Hawking Radiation mechanism. All of this is brought to life by a giant screen above the exhibits that displays a photo slideshow of moments from his academic and personal life. A special, exhibit-specific audio recording of Hawking, who is the Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, plays over the charming photo presentation.

This is the first time such a display has been commissioned, with both Hawking and his daughter Lucy being involved in selecting the display items. The personability of the display is evident throughout and interesting facts pop out at closer inspection of the photos. For example, a sharp-eyed member of staff at the Museum noticed a Marilyn Monroe picture in one picture and we were later informed that the professor has Marilyn memorabilia dotted around his Cambridge office.

Alison Boyle, Curator of Astronomy at the Science Museum, said, ‘We have been very privileged to explore Professor Hawking’s archives, discovering early drafts of his hugely influential scientific papers alongside a rich array of popular material. We hope that the selection we have chosen to display will offer a unique insight into the career of the world’s best-known scientist’.

Stephen Hawking: A 70th Birthday Celebration will be open until Monday 9th April 2012, so catch it while you can! Entrance is free.