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Introducing Stephen Hawking's Office

Published: 10 November 2022

In 1999, Stephen Hawking moved into the office that became the hub of his activities for the next two decades. Now part of the Science Museum Group's collection, read about this unique space—tailored for Hawking's needs and working practices—for a revealing insight into one of science's most prominent figures.

Hawking's office was located in Cambridge University’s newly built Centre for Mathematical Sciences (CMS): a complex that brought together the mathematics-related departments and institutes of the university. This included Hawking’s own Department for Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP), in which he had worked since the early 1970s, and where he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1979. 

Hawking’s office is similar to others in the complex, and some of its furniture is standard university property. However, it was double the size of a regular office, and included adaptations for his particular physical needs, including a sink and kitchen area, and space for medical treatments. The offices of his technical and administrative assistants were right next door.  

Stephen Hawking in his office © Sarah Lee
Professor Stephen Hawking in his office at the University of Cambridge, commissioned by the Science Museum Group in 2011 to mark Hawking’s 70th birthday

In 2021, the contents of Professor Hawking’s office—over 500 items that span the extraordinary to the mundane—joined the Science Museum Group Collection to be preserved and shared with audiences across the world.

This remarkable collection makes reference to Hawking’s work as a theoretical physicist, his celebrity profile, and the political and other causes he supported. Decorative objects tell of his global travels, make geeky reference to his scientific ideas and contributions, and act as reminders of life episodes and personal interests. The office would also have contained family photographs (which were not transferred to the museum).  

The Stephen Hawking’s Office Collection is a rare opportunity for audiences to explore an important space of science and technology. It is a portal through which we can understand better one of the most well-known figures in science using the very objects he surrounded himself with.

Below is an introductory tour through the main types of objects in the office and links to further highlights. 

Hawking's Desk

At the centre of the office is Hawking’s desk with a desktop computer, behind which there is space for him and his wheelchair, including all mobile computers, screens and custom equipment. The desk and his wheelchair were oriented so that Hawking could see incoming visitors, and the working blackboard. When working with academic colleagues, these often sat by Hawking’s right side, sharing the view of his screens and blackboard behind. 

desk pics

The Blackboards

Perhaps the most iconic objects in Hawking’s office are two blackboards: the green one in front, on which current research was elaborated and discussed, and a black one to his right, which he kept as a memento, full of doodles made during a conference in the early 1980s.  

Blackboard Images

Medical Treatment Areas

Half of Hawking’s office, along the windows and the long red couch, were used primarily by his carers. A table with chairs by the window mostly provided surfaces for medical equipment and related everyday items. Hawking needed to be periodically laid flat for clearing his throat, and the space was arranged so he could be carried or hoisted to the couch for this treatment. In later years, as his wheelchairs became more sophisticated, he could often be treated directly from them. 

Medical Treatments


The walls of Hawking’s office are densely covered with posters, photographs, artwork and mementos from people and causes which made a mark on his life. There are a few pictures of scientific forebears like Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Richard Feynman (1918-1988), but the majority of the objects have a more direct connection to Hawking, and are often inscribed and autographed. Seemingly modest posters from public appearances and conferences, point to particularly memorable events in his life and career. He honoured his close friends, collaborators and peers by displaying group photographs taken during academic events. 

A good portion of wall-mounted items relate to his celebrity profile, showcasing Hawking’s appearances in popular culture over several decades, from Star Trek (1993) to Little Britain (2015). However, the walls also hold highlights of Stephen’s more serious public activities such as encounters with world leaders, or his participation at the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences.  

Finally, a portion of portraits, imagery and gifts honour supporters of his scientific research, his treasured causes such as spaceflight, and those who provided expertise to help with Hawking’s mobility and communication. In fact, many building names in his complex also refer to benefactors whose participation was facilitated by Hawking’s worldwide fame. 

In addition to wall-mounted artifacts, the office contains stacks of unmounted posters. These served as backgrounds during his media appearances, to hide unwanted views of the kitchen, medical equipment, and the general untidiness that accompanies collective scientific work.  

Wall Images


Stephen Hawking's office contains over three hundred books, all located on the bookshelves behind his desk, above the kitchen counter. Crockery, packaged foods, greeting cards, small mementos and miscellaneous paperwork share the shelves with them. 

The oldest books date from Hawking’s student years, and the bulk corresponds to his long professional career from the 1960s to the 2010s. From the 1990s onwards Hawking used digital publications increasingly, so the books in his bookcases are a select subset. Some, like the dissertations he advised, or book drafts, are rare copies.  

Most of the library contents are standard prints, but a majority of these contain significant individual marks, and even for those that do not, the connection to Hawking is quite direct. Books by friends and colleagues often contain inscriptions and inserts that evidence their relationship. Others point to places he visited, conferences he attended, or relate to having become a celebrity and inspiration for people around the world. Of the books that Hawking authored, there are usually multiple versions, translations, and occasionally drafts.  

Many books contain inserts such as notes by the authors or editors, receipts, and occasionally unrelated material that found its way into them around the time Hawking brought them to his office.  

The shelves also hold more transient items, such as some latest issues of journals of his interest or from institutions and societies in which he participated in the 2010s; and on the bookshelves are multiple greeting cards and invitations generally dating from this period.  

To complement the books and publications in his office, the Science Museum Group also received a selection of material from Hawking’s previous Silver Street office. Significantly, this includes a comprehensive set of draft publications and preprints, detailing the scientific work of Hawking, his students and collaborators over a span of over thirty years, until these materials became entirely electronic. The selection includes Hawking’s most important printed scientific publications, and a selection of magazines with articles about him until the late 1990s when he moved out of Silver Street.  


Kitchen Area

Theoretical physics is not a lone enterprise. Hawking often worked long hours with colleagues and students in front of the blackboard and computer screen, fuelled by tea and coffee. Hawking's office was fitted with a kitchen counter covering a whole wall under his bookcases and included a refrigerator, microwave oven, sink and several counters with storage space. This area allowed hosting small groups of visitors and catered for his specific care needs as well. Hawking was also a regular attendee at daily tea gatherings and academic talks in the common room at the end of the corridor.

Kitchen Images


Among the most visually striking features of Stephen Hawking's office are the multiple trophies he chose to keep there, which communicate just a portion of the impact he had in his lifetime.

The majority are located on the windowsills, but they were also sometimes found on free spaces along the bookshelves. These trophies represent a small subset of prizes won by Hawking, chosen for his office because of their artistic quality and connection to causes important to him, such as his disability activism.

Many other trophies and awards, including those more closely related to his scientific career, were kept at home. Some of these latter were also obtained by the Science Museum Group.  


Scientific Toys

Mixed in among trophies and mementos in Stephen Hawking's office are a selection of items with layers of scientific significance. These are toys and gifts that have the closest connection to Hawking’s theoretical work: research he was particularly proud of, and which also provided an easy way to illustrate difficult aspects of his theories to visitors. 

Beach ball toy

Wheelchairs and Communications

In addition to the technological objects that were in Hawking’s office in his last years, the Science Museum Group has a significant collection of his wheelchairs and electronic equipment which supported his mobility and communication. These items represent three decades of innovation and tinkering in response to the challenges originating from Hawking’s progressing disability.  

Stephen Hawking's collection at the Science Museum includes all but three of his existing wheelchairs, from the 1980s onwards. This comprehensive group of objects bears testament to the technological progress in mobility over a generation, and to Stephen's growing needs as his condition worsened. 

When Hawking first started using this office, he could still operate his own wheelchair, and he interacted with his computers using clickers in both hands. Over subsequent years, it became increasingly difficult to use his hands to drive or operate his communications interface, requiring new, creative solutions.  

Voice synthesizer

During the two decades in this office, Hawking’s condition worsened. Many different external groups provided solutions, including companies specialising in disability aids, and teams within larger companies such as Intel, Google and Microsoft.

Most significant however were the 'tinkering' innovations by Hawking’s 'Graduate Assistants' (GAs), who were in day-to-day charge of these technologies, and constantly tried out improvements. In the last two decades of his life, Hawking went from operating his computers using manual clickers, to a system that detected the movement of his cheek with infrared light. There were also regular attempts to modernise his synthesizer system, a task that turned out quite challenging as Hawking considered the 1980s synthetic voice his own.

A quite comprehensive lineage of these technological improvements, which would have been kept in the GA's office next door, are now preserved as part of the collection. 

Explore Stephen Hawking's objects and the stories they tell

Over the coming months, the Science Museum will be publishing online content touching on the most intriguing aspects of Hawking’s life: the objects in Hawking’s office are the best witnesses to his contributions as a scientist, as a public figure, and as a disability activist and innovator. Already the majority of the objects from this acquisition are available through our online collection. You are free to browse around, or search by keywords. We invite you to find your way through this fascinating window into one of the greatest minds of our times!