Simon Winchester's latest work explores the life of Joseph
Needham. His subject is a fascinating one. Born in 1900, Needham can be
termed nothing less than an eccentric genius. He was well-known in the
British scientific community for his work in biochemistry even before he turned
his attention to China. His peers were referring to him as the Erasmus of
the twentieth century by the time he was 24. He published Chemical Embryology
when 31, which is considered a classic and which eventually led to his
election as a fellow of the Royal Society. He was also notorious for his
wide range of odd interests and for being quite the womanizer.
Winchester contends that Needham was a pivotal figure in the West's
understanding of Chinese history and its contributions to science. Before
Needham, China was thought to be "backward, cruel, rigid," as well as...
Beyond the Book
The Second Sino-Japanese War
Joseph Needham's travels in China took place during the latter half of the
conflict known as the Second Sino-Japanese War - the largest war to take
place in Asia during the 20th
The seeds of the conflict were sown during the First Sino-Japanese War
(1894-1895), at the end of which China ceded Taiwan and Korea to Japan, and
the Qing dynasty was substantially weakened (a factor that led to its collapse
in 1912 and the rise of the Republic of China). Hostilities continued
intermittently in the northern part of China until 1931, when Japan conquered
Manchuria setting up a puppet government in what they called Manchukuo.
Battles continued between the two nations, with Japan acting...