Stephen Hawking submitted his doctoral thesis, entitled Properties of Expanding Universes in October 1965, when he was 23 years old. Two years earlier, he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, widely referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Doctors initially predicted that the motor neuron disease would prove fatal for Hawking in only a few years. But the theoretical physicist was still going strong five decades later when, in October 2017, Cambridge University made Hawking's PhD thesis freely available to download from its website. So many people tried to download the thesis on the first day that it was posted that the university’s servers were overwhelmed and temporarily crashed.
Free access to priceless information:
- Hawking agreed to make the thesis available for free download in conjunction with Open Access 2017, a new initiative to make academic work more readily available to the public.
- In a recent statement, Hawking said, “By making my PhD thesis Open Access, I hope to inspire people around the world ... to wonder about our place in the universe and to try and make sense of the cosmos.”
- For decades, Hawking's doctoral work -- officially, Ph.D. 5437 -- has been kept on a shelf at Cambridge, available to anyone who wanted a digital copy for a library processing fee of £65 (about $85 USD).