Centre for Theoretical Cosmology News

Hawking Archive comes to Cambridge

Cambridge University Library has acquired Stephen Hawking’s personal archive. This includes around 10,000 pages of letters, scientific papers and scripts of his media appearances.

From a draft of Stephen Hawking's paper on black hole radiation, 1974

There is enormous public interest in Professor Hawking’s life and work. When his PhD thesis was digitised in 2017, unprecedented global demand to download the file led to the University Library’s servers crashing.

The Hawking archive is greatly diverse. As well as drafts of scientific papers and correspondence with collaborators, there are film and TV scripts such as the Oscar-winning The Theory of Everything and Professor Hawking’s appearance on The Simpsons, and correspondence on disabled access and rights.

One of the most moving items dates from 1964. It is a glowing letter from Dennis Sciama, Stephen’s PhD supervisor and one of the founders of modern cosmology, to the 22-year-old budding researcher's father, Frank. The letter concludes:

It is a real pleasure for me to supervise him – indeed I am now at the stage of learning from him.

Professor Paul Shellard, Director of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and a former graduate student of Stephen, explained the significance of the archive:

Stephen has a profound legacy and a huge influence on cosmology and gravitation, particularly his breakthrough discovery that black holes radiate. This brought together for the first time the two great revolutions of twentieth-century physics: quantum mechanics on microscopic scalse and general relativity on the huge scales that govern the evolution of the universe. It is wonderful that these landmark papers which were so influential will be accessible to everyone and housed here in Cambridge, Stephen’s academic home for over 50 years. To see the original and draft versions of these papers is thrilling for scientists and historians of science alike, and we hope it will inspire the next generation to reflect on Stephen’s contributions and to follow in his footsteps – how through his curiosity and his determination in the face of adversity, he was able to see so much further than others.

Notes of Stephen Hawking dating from 1966

Dr Jessica Gardner, University Librarian, emphasized that the Library was absolutely committed to making the archive available to the widest possible audience and in perpetuity. She noted that three of the most important scientific archives of all time – those of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking – are now housed under one roof in Cambridge:

One of the reasons I’m so pleased the archive is here is that it’s what Professor Hawking wanted to happen. And part of that was joining the pantheon of scientists and their great discoveries which are represented in the archive of Cambridge University Library. Cambridge is a place where great discoveries that change the world happen, and so it is wonderful to complete the trinity of Newton, Darwin and Hawking here at Cambridge University Library, and to make these collections open and available for research and study to students of all ages across the world.

Stephen’s son Tim said that the Hawking family was delighted that the archive will be looked after so well by Cambridge University Library to inspire future generations. "Our father would be really pleased," he said. "It was really important during his lifetime that science be opened up to the widest possible number of people and be democratized and not be the preserve of the elite few."

Professor Hawking’s life and achievements are also being memorialised by the University in the Stephen Hawking Programme,  a fundraising effort to offer highly prestigious academic appointments, fellowships and studentships in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, theoretical physics and mathematics, aimed at attracting the very best candidates from around the world. The Programme will involve extensive outreach activity, reflecting Professor Hawking’s interest in the public communication of science.

The contents of Stephen Hawking's former office in DAMTP have been acquired by the Science Museum, where the office will be reconstructed.

More information about the Hawking archive can be found here:



Handwritten draft introduction for a paper about the event horizon from Professor Hawking dating from 1973