John Murray is publishing Stephen Hawking's Brief Answers to the Big Questions - the last book he was working on before he died.
The title, collating Hawking's answers to "the big questions of our time", is described as a selection of his most profound, accessible, and timely reflections from his personal archive and will publish in October 2018.
Covering his discoveries and perspectives on "everything from the creation of the universe, black holes, alien intelligence, and the existence of God to the importance of space colonisation, and the perils and promise of artificial intelligence”, UK and Commonwealth rights in the book were sold through Robert Kirby of United Agents to Nick Davies, m.d. at John Murray.
Hawking's long-time publisher Bantam acquired rights to publish in North America; Random House US president and publisher Gina Centrello did the deal with Doug Abrams of Idea Architects on behalf of United Agents, and Jennifer Hershey, Random House's editor-at-large in the US, is editing.
According to John Murray, the new book was in discussion at the time of Hawking’s death and his Estate decided to go forward with the project. It will be organised into four parts: Why Are We Here? Will We Survive? Will Technology Save Us or Destroy Us? How Can We Thrive?
A percentage of the royalties will go to the Motor Neuron Disease Association and the Stephen Hawking Foundation.
Known for his work in cosmology and theoretical physics, notably for his work on Black Holes, Hawking was the director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. At the age of 20 he was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease and was given two years to live. While confined to a wheelchair and eventually forced to speak through a voice synthesizer, he defied the prognosis, dying at the age of 76 in March 2018.
Hawking's landmark work, A Brief History of Time (Bantam, 1988), has sold over 13 million copies worldwide alone. It experienced a spike in sales immediately following the announcement of his death in March, selling 14,197 copies that week and claiming his first ever Paperback Non-Fiction number one. It also debuted in both the Weekly and Monthly E-Book charts and the Audible audio download top 20.
Hawking also wrote Black Holes and Baby Universes (Bantam Press, 1993); An Illustrated Brief History of Time (Bantam Press, 1996); The Universe in a Nutshell (Bantam Press, 2001) and A Briefer History of Time (Bantam Press, 2005), as well as his memoir My Brief History (Transworld, 2013). He co-authored with his daughter, Lucy, the George series of books for children with PRH Children's too.
Lucy Hawking, on behalf of the Estate, said of the new book that it had been a project Hawking "loved". "Communication was so important to our father in his lifetime and we see this book as part of his legacy, bringing together his thoughts, humor, theories and writing into one beautiful edition," she said.
Hawking’s agent Kirby said: "The idea for this book rose out of the thousands of requests Professor Hawking received from people from all over the world for answers to the big questions of our time. With his characteristic wit and brilliant mind he began writing and collating his responses and I’m delighted his Estate has agreed to support publication of Brief Answers to the Big Questions, the last book he was working on before he died.”
The book's publication coincides with the 250th anniversary of John Murray.
Davies, m.d. John Murray Press, commented: “Stephen Hawking did more in his lifetime to deepen our understanding of gravity, space and time than anyone since Einstein. He was also a great communicator and populariser of his subject. So, we feel immensely privileged to be publishing his final book – what better way to mark our 250th anniversary? – and look forward to helping it reach the widest possible audience.”