Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Man who Loved China

Reading Simon Winchester's biography of Joseph Needham, The Man Who Loved China. He was a Cambridge academic, specialising in biochemistry and would probably have stayed that way had he not met another biochemist, Lu Gwei-djen, who'd arrived in England from China in 1937. From then on he became obsessed with China: its language, its culture and above all its long long history of inventions. 
Towards the end of WW2 he was invited to go there (funnily enough by the fledgling British Council, which had set up an office in the then capital, Chongqing; he was kind of - unofficially - its first representative). His job was to visit hundreds of deprived, war-damaged universities and supply them with scientific equipment. And while there he began researching his magnum opus, the many volumed Science and Civilisation of ChinaAfter the war he helped set up UNESCO (he was responsible for the S in the middle), got into a scrape during the anti-Commie McCarthy years and continued with his never-ending book. Indeed, it hasn't ended. Needham died in 1995 but others have picked up the baton. Interesting story, well-told by another man who loves China.

No comments:

Post a Comment