The Man Who Loved China
(Dr Needham, snr)
Every hobby has an intellectual angle, and Needham (jr) was obsessively interested in everything.
An exhilarating change from my usual fare (though it fits with my fondness for China and Cambridge): a biography of Joseph Needham (1900-1995), an eccentric but brilliant multilingual Cambridge biochemist who fell in love with a Chinese woman, then her language and her country, becoming the world expert in and ambassador for the histor ...more
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 Qianl...more
Great background reading for anyone contemplating the epic task of taking on the fifteen (and more) volumes of Science and Civilisation in China -- one the greatest compendiums of knowledge, a supreme feat of imagination and will power, and one of the most lasting bridges built between the east and the west.
Winchester provides the historic and political backdrop for the composition and allows us to understand why it was such an important work — why it was so necessary and so brave an undertaking ...more
A man with a beautiful mind, one seemingly forged for the hard sciences - he worked in a college laboratory at Cambridge University specializing in embryology and morphogenesis - betrayed itself with that willful miscreant known as love, and in this case it was a love for China. Needham threw himself into the study of Chinese history and some thought at the time that he'd thrown away all he had to offer the world. But he provided them wrong, proved there was more in him than they'd ...more
In this book we follow Joseph Needham from childhood to death. He lived from 1900-1995. He was a bio-chemist ...more
In a world where the next Vice President of the USA (or President if the Bible’s allotted three score and ten are anything to go by) could be someone who could more accurately be described as a polymoron – someone dangerously ignorant of just about everything except, obviously, how to skin a moo ...more
A chatty, repetitive, but easily readable map of the life of Joseph Needham, a diligent weaving of what must have been many hundreds of notes into an often cinematic narrative with countless curious digressions along the way.
As with perhaps any biography though, I am left with questions, large and small. I’ll list four I cannot escape.
Before that however, I feel compelled to note the occasional and surprising instances of Winchester verging on unpleasant condescension toward the Chinese themse ...more
Its title is perfect. Joseph Needham was an academic, a socialist and a biochemist - and he did indeed love China very deeply.
The first part of the book covers his trip to China in 1943. China was at war with the Japanese, and they had overrun a third of the country to the east. He was sent to western China – which was free of Japanese influence. His task there was to do what he could help Chinese scientists carry on working – basically he was an e ...more
The Man Who Loved China is about Joseph Needham, a researcher much like Winchester. In fact, it is very meta that one of the world's greatest researchers should write a book about one o ...more
After reading “The Professor and the Madman” I could not imagine the author topping or equaling that book. While it may not be everyone’s opinion I thought that that story was so well researched, written, and presented (even the afterwards bits) that anythin ...more
"Chin-a , way out in Asia Mi-nor
No country could be fi-ner
Be-neath the sun.
You gave us silk to dress our lovely women in
‘Twas worth the price
And when we couldn’t get potatoes
You gave us rice
We mix chop suey with your chop sticks
You’ve taught us quite a few tricks
We never knew
We take our hats off to one thing we’ve seen
Your laundries keep our country clean
there's already a pretty profess ...more
Simon Winchester does well with this story ...more
One of the ma ...more
I really like the other Simon Winchester books I have read including Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 and A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, so I had high hopes for this book. I wasn't completely let down, but it certainly wasn't his best.
One reason for this is probably the slightly less earth-shattering subject. When you compare this book, a biography of Joseph Needham, to oe of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recent his...more
Though Winchester's writing is strong, I found the subject matter less rich than some of his other works. While "Science and Civilization" is an amazing achievement, Needham is not the most likable of protagonist ...more