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In illuminating detail Winchester bestselling author of The Professor the Madman Elegant scrupulous—NY Times Book Review Krakatoa A mesmerizing page turner—Time tells the story of Joseph Needham the Cambridge scientist who unlocked the most closely held secrets of China long the world's most technologically advanced country No cloistered don this tall married Englishman was a freethinking intellectual A nudist he was devoted to uirky folk dancing In 1937 while working as a biochemist at Cambridge he fell in love with a visiting Chinese student with whom he began a lifelong affair His mistress persuaded him to travel to her home country where he embarked on a series of expeditions to the frontiers of the ancient empire He searched for evidence to bolster a conviction that the Chinese were responsible for hundreds of humankind's most familiar innovations—including printing the compass explosives suspension bridges even toilet paper—often centuries before others His journeys took him across war torn China consolidating his admiration for the Chinese After the war he determined to announce what he'd discovered began writing Science Civilization in China describing the country's long history of invention technology By the time he died he'd produced almost single handedly 17 volumes making him the greatest one man encyclopedist ever Epic intimate The Man Who Loved China tells the sweeping story of China thru Needham's life Here's a tale of what makes men nations humankind great—related by one of the world's best storytellers


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    He decided initially to make a great historical list a list of every mechanical invention and abstract idea—the building blocks of modern world civilization—that had been first conceived and made in China If he could managed to establish a flawless catalog of just what the Chinese had created first of exactly which of the world’s ideas and concepts had actually originated in the Middle Kingdom he would be on to something If he could delve behind the unforgettable remark that emperor Qianlong had made to the visiting Lord Macartney in 1792—“We possess all thingsI have no use for your country’s manufactures”—if he could determine what exactly prompted Qianlong to make such a claim then he would perhaps have the basis or a truly original and world changing work of scholarship Simon Winchester image fr0m rolfpottscom Other great British explorers like Livingston Scott Drake and Cook sailed rode or walked into places that had never been seen by Westerners producing useful and accurate maps of the places they explored Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham strode into places in China that while they might have been visited by Europeans had maybe not been properly noticed and created the equivalent of a map to their history and the history of scientific development in China He would produce one of the monumental intellectual works of the 20th century Science and Civilization in China and revolutionize how the West perceived a nation that had come to be regarded as a basket case Like Moses Joseph Needham did not survive to see the final product of his efforts but he knew that it would come to be as he had dedicated his energy genius love for and obsession with China to fueling the engine to its final destination There are to date twenty four “substantial published works” in the project according to the Needham Research Institute with in process Of course as a remarkable Englishman Needham would not be complete without his share of eccentricities peculiarities and oddities He was a nudist for one Those of delicate sensibility afloat on the River Cam in Cambridge knew that there was a certain section of the waterway that might feature suit free swimmers and when to shield their gaze Needham might be found among the bathers He was also a practitioner of the open marriage It is unlikely that his wife Dorothy the daughter of his Cambridge mentor was much of a sexual wanderer but Needham was a notorious womanizer Of course there was one woman in particular who caught his fancy and sparked Needham’s life work 有缘千里来相会 She was named Lu Gwei djen and she was Chinese born thirty nine years before in the city of Nanjing and a scientist like himself They had met at Cambridge six years earlierIn falling headlong for Gwei djen Joseph Needham found that he also became enraptured by her country She taught him her language and he now spoke wrote and read it with a fair degree of fluency She had suggested that he travel to China and see for himself what a truly astonishing country it was—so different she kept insisting from the barbaric and enigmatic empire most westerners believed it to be Lu Gwei djen was a gifted biology researcher who came to Cambridge specifically to study with Needham and his wife also a high level scientist Six months in she and Needham were an item Dorothy put up with itLu Gewi djen – from HCSC Foundation – Needham from USA TodayThe times were dramatic when Needham made his first visit to China in 1943 Japan occupied a considerable portion of the country The trip took years to arrange having to run a gauntlet of political interference But once he arrived Needham immediately began identifying elements of contemporary Chinese civilization technology and science that dated back hundreds and sometimes thousands of years predating similar abilities in the west He found that much of what was presumed to have originated in Europe had in fact begun in the Middle Kingdom Needham made it his life’s work to dig into the history of all the Chinese science and technology history he could get his hands on to feed what he already knew would be his magnum opus He travelled extensively in the non occupied areas of China at times barely escaping ahead of Japanese invaders Although he compiled a massive amount of information the crux of his concern rested on what would come to be called The Needham Question or The Grand Question whyhad modern science originated only in the western world? Much later ona second question presented itself—namely why during the previous fourteen centuries had China been so much successful than Europe in acquiring knowledge of natural phenomena and using it for human benefit? Simon Winchester tracks Needham’s life from early childhood until his passing at age 95 He worked until the very end And a remarkable life it was His focus of course is on the time in which Needham acquired an interest in China and the subsequent lifetime labors 只要功夫深,铁杵磨成针 A fair bit of ink is given to his relationship with Lu Gwei djen as it should be And there is considerable reportage on Needham’s political views and the trouble those got him into during the shameful McCarthy period of the Cold War 一人难称百人心众口难调 This makes for fascinating reading Winchester also lets us in on what a pain in the neck it was for Needham however intrepid to make his way around China on his investigations in the absence of reliable transport His life and status at Cambridge comes in for a look as well Like the poor we will always have office politics with us 强龙难压地头蛇 Joseph Needham is indeed one of the most remarkable people of the 20th century I confess I had never before heard of him which may say about my educational shortcomings than Needham’s undeserved obscurity but I will presume that there are many like me fewer to be sure on the eastern side of the pond to whom the story of Joseph Needham will be a revelation Simon Winchester has made a career out of writing about great accomplishments and the people responsible 一步一个脚印儿 He has done us all a service to bring this amazing character to our attention With the growth of China into one of the premier economic and military powers on the planet it may not ensure a good fortune but it would probably be a worthwhile thing to know as much as possible about its history and culturePublication 2008Review posted – 3615EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal Twitter and FB pagesAn interesting wiki on the Historiography of scienceIf you feel like getting a start on reading Needham’s life work you might check in with the Needham Research Institute There are many photographs available there taken by Needham on his China visitsA few other books by Simon Winchester The Perfectionists Pacific Krakatoa Atlantic The Map That Changed the World The Professor and the MadmanThere are plenty Winchester books out there I listed only the ones I have readThe following are the full entries for the Chinese items included in the review I found them in the China Highlights site有缘千里来相会 yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì Fate brings people together no matter how far apart they may be This proverb points out that human relationships are decreed by Fate只要功夫深,铁杵磨成针 zhǐ yào gōng fū shēn tiě chǔ mó chéng zhēn If you work hard enough at it you can grind even an iron rod down to a needle This proverb encourages us to persevere in whatever we undertake Just as the English proverb has itConstant drilling can wear away a stone一人难称百人心众口难调yī rén nán chèn bǎi rén xīn zhòng kǒu nán tiáo It is hard to please everyone强龙难压地头蛇 qiáng lóng nán yā dìtóu shé Even a dragon from the outside finds it hard to control a snake in its old haunt This means Powerful outsiders can hardly afford to neglect local bullies一步一个脚印儿 yī bù yī gè jiǎo yìnr Every step leaves its print work steadily and make solid progress