Brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking is celebrated by his homeland on a new Royal Mint black hole coin

Last March 14th was a particularly sad day when it was announced that one of the world’s greatest visionaries, pProfessor Stephen Hawking, had passed away. In 1961, at the age of just 23, Hawking was told he had Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a particularly nasty, fatal, and rapidly progressing disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord, preventing movement, but not the senses. Given just two years to live, the disease eventually claimed him – 57 years later.

Never giving in to this crippling affliction, his work became his life, and he was responsible for a quite staggering scientific output. Most famously, he created a formula describing the entropy of a black hole which became known as the Hawking Equation. Inscribed on his tombstone, it’s also inscribed on the coin honouring his lifes achievements. What made him special wasn’t just his outstanding intellect, but his desire to ‘dumb it down’ for the rest of us, so we could all see and take part in the wonder that he saw in the universe. A true legend and his seminal book, A Brief History of Time, should be sought out and read from cover to cover.

The coin is a simple enough affair, but one that encapsulates the essence of the mans work in a single image. The crudely drawn representation of a black hole is spot on, and Hawkings name, and his famous equation, round out a stylish piece of work. We like this one and would love to see a more adventurous strike, perhaps even a domed coin, but as this is the traditionalist Royal Mint, we’re unlikely to see one. Designed by Edwina Ellis, she’s to be commended for her restraint.

Three versions on offer as usual. A 22kt gold coin, and a pair of sterling silvers (8g and piedfort 16g), all sold out on day one and heading upwards on the aftermarket. In contrast to the slightly cynical, coloured 50p coin releases the mint has issued recently, this one deserves to be sought after. Presentation is of a good quality, and if you want a cheapie version of the design, a base metal brilliant uncirculated variant is on sale for just £10, although with a lower quality strike, of course. Very neat release, and the first in a new series celebrating innovation in British Science. We look forward to the next one.

SILVERBOX
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MINTS DESCRIPTION

The Royal Mint has announced that the life of one of the world’s most well-known physicists, the late Stephen Hawking, is to be celebrated on a 50p coin.

The scientist – and his ground-breaking achievements – will be honoured on a 50p piece featuring a design influenced by Hawking’s pioneering work on black holes. 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.

Termed ‘Hawking Radiation’, this was an unexpected but highly influential development. The fact that something can come out of black holes means that they are not truly black, as people thought. In fact, over enough time this ‘Hawking radiation’ means that a black hole will evaporate and disappear. Hawking’s discovery led physicists to the unavoidable conclusion that information is lost as a black hole forms and subsequently evaporates. This is the black hole information paradox, one of the greatest unsolved problems in theoretical physics. These theories and phenomena are explained in his most famous work, A Brief History of Time.

As he said in his own words in an interview for the BBC: “I think my greatest achievement will be my discovery that black holes are not entirely black.”

Stephen Hawking is one of an elite group of scientists to have been honoured on UK coinage, alongside the likes of Sir Isaac Newton in 2017 and Charles Darwin in 2009. In recent years Hawking has been the subject of biopic and has had a recording of his voice beamed into a black hole

Edwina Ellis, who designed the coin said: “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. 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.”

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP
COMPOSITION 0.9167 gold 0.925 silver 0.925 silver
WEIGHT 15.50 grams 8.00 grams 16.00 grams
DIMENSIONS 27.3 mm 27.3 mm 27.3 mm
FINISH Proof Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS None None Piedfort
MINTAGE 400 5,500 2,500
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
First Coin Company AD