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Thread of the Silkworm

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  10 reviews
The definitive biography of Tsien Hsue-Shen, the pioneer of the American space age who was mysteriously accused of being a communist, deported, and became -- to America's continuing chagrin -- the father of the Chinese missile program. ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 15th 1996 by Basic Books (first published 1995)
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Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
There are not one but several threads to follow in the fascinating story of Tsien Hsue-shen, the brilliant Chinese scientist who is the subject of this book. There is a story of lineages, of a scion of a family of mandarins and an uncle once removed of Roger Tsien, the 2008 Nobel prize Laureate and his brother Richard, a highly distinguished neuroscientist, both current US citizens. Yet another story is that of China and its convulsive century of revolution and change. Tsien Hsue-shen was born i ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book!
Being a significant contributor and founding father of both China and US's rocket science and application in the defense, Qian Xuesen (Tsien Tsieshen in book) is an enigmatic character. He is above-normal smart and yet very hardworking. At his youth, he preferred the beauty of math and classic music, so much so that he is actually quite a loner. This didn't change, or, even worsened after he went to USA to further his study. The study opportunity is from the Boxer Indemnity Schola
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Tsien Hsue-shen was a Chinese-national rocket scientist at Caltech who was deported from the United States during the McCarthy era. It is not hard to see that as a blunder of colossal proportions, since he went on to spearhead China's missile program.

But I also found myself having less sympathy for Tsien than other Red Scare victims, since he appears to be, at best, an amoral person in the often immoral calling of producing greater weapons. That's especially true considering his public embrace o
James Crabtree
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Tsien Hsue-shen was a gifted academic, a man who rapidly reached the pinnacle of Chinese science in the early 20th Century and then went to America to continue his education. Originally trained as a steam-power engineer, Tsien rapidly showed himself to be a genius when it came to airflow physics, which in turn had ramifications in aviation and the United States' efforts in rocketry, which were paltry. He helped design American rockets BEFORE examples of the German V2 were available for study ...more
Phil Chen
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very good biography of Qian Xuesen. This book provides me with a different view from what I read before.
Michael Connolly
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, espionage
Chang tells the story of a rocket scientist, Tsien Hsue-Shen, who was born in China in 1911 and educated in the United States. He left China in 1935 to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During World War II, he worked with Hungarian engineer Theodore von Kármán at the California Institute of Technology and helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During the 1950s, the United States feared he might be a Red Chinese spy, so they deported him back to Communist China. Back in Chi ...more
Aug 04, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: A Science Teacher
This was just toooo much! I don't even know how to explain to anyone what this book was like. This was written by one of my favorite authors, the same lady that wrote the RAPE OF NANKING, (which I loved) but I just BARELY got through this one. It was so full of technical data, and dates, and such that each page put me one step closer to falling asleep.
I guess it's cheaper than ambien though. Ugghhhh
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-reading
Due to limited sources, I understand that this book was more detailed in some parts than others. Still, that doesn't change the fact that Thread of the Silkworm leaves out many questions unanswered, especially about the later part of Qian's life. ...more
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Iris Shun-Ru Chang was a Chinese-American historian and journalist. She was best known for her best-selling 1997 account of the Nanking Massacre, The Rape of Nanking. She committed suicide on November 9, 2004, when she was just 36 years old.

The daughter of two university professors who had emigrated from China, Chang was born in Princeton, New Jersey and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois where

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