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 ignorant and ...
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