October 23, 2021

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Stephen Hawking: Everything you need to know about the thesis that ‘broke the Internet’

8 min read

Scribbled in pencil on one of its early pages is “no copying without the author’s consent”. In October 2017, Stephen Hawking allowed his PhD thesis — Properties of Expanding Universes — to be made available online through the University of Cambridge’s Apollo portal. The website crashed almost immediately under the sheer weight of traffic. It was downloaded almost 60,000 times in the first 24 hours alone.

Hawking was 24 years old when he received his PhD in 1966 and, despite being diagnosed with motor neurone disease at just 21, could still handwrite that “this dissertation is my original work.” In a statement to accompany its release, the late physicist said: “By making my PhD thesis Open Access, I hope to inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet; to wonder about our place in the universe and to try and make sense of the cosmos.” 

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