October 29, 2017, 9:33 am
Stephen Hawking's PhD thesis was accessed more than two million times within days of it being made available to the public, it has been revealed.
Prof Hawking's 1966 work proved so popular on the day of its release it crashed the publications section of Cambridge University's website.
More than 500,000 people have also tried to download the paper, titled "Properties of expanding universes".
Dr Arthur Smith, from the university, called the figures "monumental".
"This is far and away the most accessed item we have in the university's Apollo repository," Dr Smith, deputy head of scholarly communication, said.
"I'd hazard a guess that Prof Hawking's PhD thesis is also the most accessed item from any research repository ever. We've never seen numbers like this before."
Prof Hawking wrote the 134-page document as a 24-year-old postgraduate student while studying at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
The astrophysicist, who has been at Cambridge University since 1962, would later go on to write A Brief History of Time, one of the most influential scientific works ever.
Since it went live at 00:01 BST on Monday, the PhD has been accessed about two million times by about 800,000 unique browsers "from every corner of the globe", according to the university.
The next most read PhD thesis has received just 7,960 downloads in 2017.
Previously, to read Hawking's PhD in full, people had to pay £65 to the university library to scan a copy or physically go to the library to read it.
Cambridge University hopes to encourage its other former academics to make their work available to the public, like Prof Hawking has.
Dr Smith added: "Locking knowledge and information behind closed doors benefits no-one."