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scientific breakthroughs

Eureka! Christie’s July 16 auction hails scientific breakthroughs  

scientific breakthroughs
The Nobel Prize medal in physiology or medicine awarded to Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards (1925-2013) in 2010 for the development of in vitro fertilization. Estimate £500,000 – £800,000. Christie’s image

LONDON – Open for bidding now until July 16, Christie’s auction Eureka! is a journey through the scientific and technological breakthroughs that have formed the modern world, and the brilliant minds that lay behind them. From Thomas Edison’s pioneering design for the lightbulb to Crick and Watson’s celebrated discovery of the structure of DNA, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking, this online auction provides collectors with an opportunity to acquire a slice of history that has shaped the world we live in. View the fully illustrated catalog on LiveAuctioneers.

Among the highlight lots offered is the Nobel Prize medal (above) awarded to British Scientist Sir Robert Edwards in 2010, for the development of human in vitro fertilization therapy (estimate: £500,000-£800,000). Edwards’ pioneering research, alongside his two collaborators Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy, eventually led to the birth of Louise Brown on July 25, 1978, marking the first conception and birth by IVF.

Following Christie’s successful sale of personal items from the estate of Professor Stephen Hawking in 2018’s inaugural online auction On the Shoulders of Giants, which were 100% sold, bidders will also have the opportunity to purchase a number of unique items directly offered from the late physicist’s estate. Highlights include a rare Hawking portrait by Anton Corbijn, the creative director best known for the visual output of Depeche Mode and U2 (estimate: £1,000-£1,500), and a Simpsons figurine of him made by Playmates Toys (estimate: £500-£800). These rare items provide a remarkable insight into the cultural interests, personality and sense of fun of this extraordinary man.

scientific breakthroughs
Stephen Hawking’s (1942-2018) personal ‘Simpsons’ figurine made by Playmates Toys, 2003. Estimate £500-£800. Christie’s image

Continuing the theme of pioneers and life-changing discoveries, the sale also offers seven autographed and annotated design drawings by American inventor Thomas Edison for his lightbulb and related innovations (estimate: £60,000-£90,000). Each sketch testifies to Edison’s continued work on the electric lamp throughout the 1880s, as well as offering an example of the related inventions that filled his design notebooks.

scientific breakthroughs
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), autograph manuscript consisting of seven pages of annotated design drawings for his lightbulb and related inventions. Estimate £60,000-£90,000. Christie’s image

The online sale also features an extraordinary collection of 50 patents from famous inventor Nikola Tesla’s most fruitful period, comprising almost half of all the patents granted to him. The collection includes Tesla’s patent for the invention of the radio, one of the key technological discoveries of the last century; for the Tesla coil, which was the basis of his method of wireless power transmission; for remote-controlled devices, which anticipated robotics; and those for his systems of power transmission, AC motors, generators, incandescent arc-lighting, transformers, etc. (estimate: £120,000-£160,000). These patents are the originals issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

scientific breakthroughs
An archive of inventive genius Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), including 50 original U.S. patents, 1886-1914. Estimate £120,000-£160,000. Christie’s image

Eureka! will also feature one of the rarest and hardest to decrypt Enigma cipher machines, a four-rotor (“M4”) used by the German Navy’s U-boat fleet to send encrypted messages during World War II, which Allied efforts tried to break under the leadership of Alan Turning at Bletchey Park and of Joe Desch in Dayton, Ohio. It is thought that fewer than 100 M4 Enigmas survived the war as they were produced in much smaller quantities than the three-rotor machines (estimate: £200,000-£300,000).

scientific breakthroughs
Rare German four-rotor Enigma cipher machine,1944. Estimate £200,000-£300,000. Christie’s image

Sophie Hopkins, Christie’s Specialist in Manuscripts and Archives, London, comments, “The Christie’s Books & Manuscripts department has hit upon a winning formula with our online science sales, which routinely attract hundreds of buyers and bidders from across the globe – many of them new to the auction world and to book collecting – all drawn by a carefully curated selection of autograph material, printed books, photographs and association objects from the most brilliant scientific minds of the modern age.”

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