- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis is freely available online for the first time ever, but good luck getting it. The University of Cambridge published three digital versions of the British scientist’s 1966 Ph.D. thesis Monday, but an unprecedented demand overwhelmed its servers and subsequently crashed its website.

The Cambridge Library repository page linking to the scientist’s 1966 thesis was visited more than 410,000 times within a day of it being published in honor of Open Access Week, nearly crippling the website and making it difficult for individuals to download the document, a university spokesman said Tuesday.

“We have had a huge response to Professor Hawking’s decision to make his PhD thesis publicly available to download, with almost 60,000 downloads in less than 24 hours,” said the spokesman, Stuart Roberts. “As a result, visitors to our open access site may find that it is performing slower than usual and may at times be temporarily unavailable.”

Neither the repository page nor the three freely available PDF versions of the scientist’s 134-page thesis easily loaded as of Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Hawking, 75, submitted the thesis in October 1965 when he was 23. It was approved the following February and published under the title “Properties of expanding universe.”

“The idea that the universe is expanding is of recent origin,” the thesis begins. “All the early cosmologies were essentially stationary and even Einstein whose theory of relativity is the basis for almost all modern developments in cosmology, found it natural to suggest a static model of the universe. However there is a very grave difficulty associated with a static model such as Einstein’s which is supposed to have existed for an infinite time.”

The thesis was already the most requested publication in the Cambridge catalog prior to being uploaded Monday to its open access repository, Apollo, but individuals wishing to access the document were previously required to pay the library a fee of about $85, BBC reported.

Cambridge received 199 requests to read Mr. Hawking’s thesis since May 2016, BBC reported. The second-most popular publication, meanwhile, was the subject of only 13 requests during that same span, the report said.

“By making my PhD thesis Open Access, I hope to inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet; to wonder about our place in the universe and to try and make sense of the cosmos,” Mr. Hawking said in a statement Monday. “Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to the research of every great and inquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding.

“It’s wonderful to hear how many people have already shown an interest in downloading my thesis — hopefully they won’t be disappointed now that they finally have access to it!” he said.

Cambridge said in a statement it will digitize the thesis of any alumni wishing to add their dissertation to its open access archive.

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