Jiang Ao, who was formerly a neighbor of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, recently recalled some experiences with him when she studied abroad a decade ago.
"At that time, my dormitory in Cambridge was just next to the Hawking family’s," said Jiang.
Hawking died on March 14 at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge.
“We had met some times. The contact benefited me a lot," she told a reporter from Xinhua News Agency.
Hawking was diagnosed of a rare form of motor neuron disease at 21, and was told would live no more than two years.
Totally paralyzed, he could only speak through a special sound synthesizer, but it never stopped his pursuit of science.
"I was so sad when I learned the news of his passing. For me, he was not only a great legendary scientist, but also an easygoing and friendly elderly man," Jiang said.
"To a certain extent, he became my spiritual pillar especially in those hard days when I studied abroad," she added.
Jiang, from China's southwestern city of Chongqing, began to study at the University of Cambridge in 2004.
"I lived just beside his house, so I could always meet this respected professor on the road to class. Every time I greeted him, he would nod to me as a response, smiling," Jiang recalls.
She said sometimes he was surrounded by some "fans" but, he didn't like being photographed.
With her legs broken during her study abroad, Jiang sat in a wheelchair for half a year. One day, her roommate wheeled her in to listen to Professor Hawking's lecture.
They met with Hawking when the lecture finished. The two people in wheelchairs smiled at each other. "He recognized me, raised his hand and typed a few words on the screen, telling his assistant to convey the message: 'Take it easy, everything will be alright,'" Jiang recalls.
"Study and life in a wheelchair with a painful broken leg was bitter and tiring. Hawking's words gave me spiritual comfort and support. In those days, he was like my spiritual teacher," Jiang told the reporter.
"Just thinking about his life experience and attitude toward hardships, I was very much inspired and encouraged."
As a UK-registered investment and securities analyst, Jiang has already launched her own company in London, and often goes back to the University of Cambridge for work.
"He was a man who pushed the limits and showed the world the truth that physical defects could never prevent the achievement of great souls," Jiang said of Hawking.
(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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