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New 50p coin commemorating Stephen Hawking unveiled by Royal Mint

The coin is inspired by Hawking’s pioneering work on black holes

Sarah Young
Tuesday 12 March 2019 09:49 GMT
Stephen Hawking in quotes

The pioneering work of Stephen Hawking has been celebrated with a commemorative 50p coin.

The physicist died last year at the age of 76 following a long battle with motor neurone disease.

The coin, which is available to buy from the Royal Mint’s website, is inspired by Hawking’s research into black holes and his ability to make science accessible and engaging for all.

“I think my greatest achievement will be my discovery that black holes are not entirely black,” Hawking previously said in an interview with the BBC.

Hawking’s work included “Hawking Radiation” – radiation theoretically emitted from just outside the event of a black hole – which led to the conclusion that information is lost as a black hole forms and subsequently evaporates.

The professor also explained black holes in his best-selling book A Brief History of Time.

Hawking joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on UK coins, including Sir Isaac Newton in 2017 and Charles Darwin in 2009.

“Stephen Hawking made difficult subjects accessible, engaging and relatable and this is what I wanted to portray in my design, which is inspired by a lecture he gave in Chile in 2008,” said Edwina Ellis, who designed the coin.

“Hawking, at his playful best, invites the audience to contemplate peering into a black hole before diving in. I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

The Mint added: “This work, which used a tentative unification of Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics, reported that black holes should not be completely black, instead emitting radiation, meaning they evaporate and eventually disappear.”

The scientist’s daughter, Lucy Hawking, recently visited the Royal Mint and said it was a “great privilege” for her father to be featured on a coin.

Nicola Howell, director of consumer at the Royal Mint, added: “We are very pleased to honour Stephen Hawking on his own coin.

“As one of the world’s most brilliant physicists he was a great ambassador for science.

“His popularisation of science and breakthrough work on black holes stand as great achievements and significant contributions to humanity.”

The coin is available to buy from 12 March with prices ranging from £10 for an uncirculated version to £795 for a gold proof option.

Professor Stephen Hawking delivers a speech on January 17, 2007 in London (Getty)

Hawking is also among a large number of scientists whose names have been put forward for a new £50 banknote.

The Bank of England has previously asked for nominations for the face of the new banknote, which it has confirmed will be someone from the world of science.

The Bank will announce who will appear on the note this summer.

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