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Stephen Hawking's thesis crashes Cambridge University's site

Here's a Brief History of that Time thousands of online fans flocked to the acclaimed scientist's early paper.

Not many college papers from 50 years ago can pull in a site-crashing audience, but then, not every college paper is written by world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.

On Monday, the University of Cambridge put Hawking's 1966 Ph.D. thesis, titled "Properties of Expanding Universes" (PDF), online for the public to peruse. It hadn't been up for long when requests to view it brought down the university's main research page.

"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," spokesman Stuart Roberts said in a statement quoted by CNN and other media outlets. "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."

But the Cambridge Digital Library said on Monday that it wasn't experiencing problems keeping the thesis online. 

CNET was able to access the thesis on Tuesday afternoon with no problem, both via Cambridge Digital Library and the university's Apollo repository.

The .PDF is worth a visit even if you're thrown by such phrases as "the discovery of the recession of the nebulae" or "galaxies have a spatially isotropic distribution around us" or have no clue about the "Royle-Narlikar theory of gravitation." 

It's been scanned in all its charmingly vintage typewritten glory, with ink stamps from the university, handwritten equations, and Hawking's own signature attesting it's all his own work. As if there was ever any doubt.