Cambridge U site crashes after too many downloads of Stephen Hawking's PhD thesis

Physicist Stephen Hawking sits on stage during an announcement of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative with investor Yuri Milner in New York.
Physicist Stephen Hawking sits on stage during an announcement of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative with investor Yuri Milner in New York.PHOTO: REUTERS

CAMBRIDGE, BRITAIN - Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has broken the Internet after his alma mater, the University of Cambridge, made his 1966 doctoral thesis publicly available for the first time.

The number of downloads for the paper, Properties Of Expanding Universes, was so overwhelming on Monday (Oct 23) that it brought down the university's repository site.

Cambridge made the thesis public at midnight on Sunday to kick off Open Access Week after hundreds of fans wrote in to request to download Hawking's full thesis.

A University of Cambridge spokesman told The Guardian: "We have had a huge response to Prof Hawking's decision to make his PhD thesis publicly available to download, with almost 60,000 downloads in less than 24 hours.

"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."

Hawking had agreed to share his work to inspire young people.

"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. 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.

"Each generation stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, just as I did as a young PhD student in Cambridge, inspired by the work of Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein. 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!"

Unless the university improves its capacity, Internet users will continue to find it inaccessible.