By Simon Winchester
In luxurious and illuminating element, Simon Winchester, the bestselling writer of The Professor and the Madman ("Elegant and scrupulous"—New York occasions booklet Review) and Krakatoa ("A enchanting page-turner"—Time) brings to lifestyles the extreme tale of Joseph Needham, the bright Cambridge scientist who unlocked the main heavily held secrets and techniques of China, lengthy the world's such a lot technologically complicated state.
No cloistered don, this tall, married Englishman was once a freethinking highbrow, who practiced nudism and used to be dedicated to a unusual model of folks dancing. In 1937, whereas operating as a biochemist at Cambridge college, he immediately fell in love with a traveling chinese language pupil, with whom he all started a lifelong affair.
He quickly grew to become eager about China, and his mistress speedily persuaded the ever-enthusiastic Needham to commute to her domestic kingdom, the place he launched into a chain of amazing expeditions to the farthest frontiers of this historical empire. He searched in all places for facts to strengthen his conviction that the chinese language have been liable for 1000's of mankind's such a lot usual innovations—including printing, the compass, explosives, suspension bridges, even rest room paper—often centuries ahead of the remainder of the area. His exciting and hazardous trips, vividly recreated through Winchester, took him throughout war-torn China to far-flung outposts, consolidating his deep admiration for the chinese language humans.
After the struggle, Needham was firm to inform the area what he had came across, and commenced writing his majestic Science and Civilisation in China, describing the country's lengthy and excellent heritage of invention and expertise. by the point he died, he had produced, primarily single-handedly, seventeen great volumes, marking him because the maximum one-man encyclopedist ever.
either epic and intimate, The guy Who enjoyed China tells the sweeping tale of China via Needham's notable existence. this is an unforgettable story of what makes males, international locations, and, certainly, mankind itself great—related by means of one of many world's inimitable storytellers.
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Extra resources for The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom
She boarded a steamer at Shanghai in the early summer of 1937. Two other young scientists accompanied her—Shen Shizhang, who after studying with Needham went on to become a professor of zoology at Yale; and Wang Yinglai, who won fame by being the first to create synthetic insulin. The Barbarian and the Celestial 37 The crossing from the Yangzi to the Thames took two months; their ship docked in London in late August. After a first night in a cheap hotel in London the three took the train to Cambridge and found their digs, a small flat conveniently close to the railway station.
The fighting had broken out in July 1937,9 while Lu Gwei-djen was aboard her liner, edging toward London. She first learned of it on the day she arrived, when she read the evening newspapers. Every subsequent day in Cambridge she scoured the press avidly for news from home; and as China’s tragedies unfolded and expanded, she and Needham followed as best they could the twists and turns of the conflict. For Lu Gwei-djen it was particularly heartbreaking. Through the summer and autumn of 1937 the Japanese had mercilessly advanced against China’s eastern cities.
Needham realized that with his nearly infallible photographic memory he would be better served by a dictionary that arranged the radicals by the direction and shape of the strokes—putting all radicals that had vertical strokes on one page, all those with strokes that veer to the left on another, and so on. This was a highly eccentric way to do it—and no Chinese lexicographer or textbook author has seen fit to copy Needham’s model—but it evidently worked for him. 8 To add a further layer of complexity: Needham wrote his dictionary using the venerable Wade-Giles system of transliterating Chinese pronounciation into English.