Cambridge servers struggle with demand for Hawking’s PhD thesis

Catherine Lally 24 October 2017

Yesterday (23rd October) at one minute past midnight, Professor Stephen Hawking's 1966 PhD thesis was made accessible online for the first time. The most-requested item in the Cambridge University Library, 30,000 people had downloaded the work on Monday. The Cambridge website crashed periodically throughout the day as a result of this huge new influx of traffic. 

As an acclaimed theoretical physicist and author of A Brief History of Time – one of the most-read scientific books ever – Prof Hawking had his life made the subject of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything. His PhD thesis, on "Properties of expanding universes," was previously only available to those who travelled to the library to read it, or paid £65 to receive a scanned copy. 

Prof Hawking provided comment on the release of his work, stating that "Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to the research of every great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding." It is understood that the University hopes its previous doctoral candidates will follow Hawking's example in releasing their research to the general public.