The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom Hardcover – May 6 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Joseph Needham (1900–1995) is the man who made China China, forming the West's understanding of a sophisticated culture with his masterpiece, Science and Civilization in China, says bestselling author Winchester. In a life devoted to recording the Middle Kingdom's intellectual wealth, Needham, an eccentric, brilliant Cambridge don, made a remarkable journey from son of a London doctor through scientist-adventurer to red scare target. In Winchester's (The Professor and the Madman) estimable hands, Needham's story comes to life straightaway. From the biochemist's arrival in WWII Chongqing (the smells, of incense smoke, car exhaust, hot cooking oil, a particularly acrid kind of pepper, human waste, oleander, and jasmine) to his steely discipline when crafting his research into prose (to an old friend: I am frightfully busy. You come without an appointment, so I am afraid I cannot see you), Winchester plunges the reader into the action with hardly a break. As the author notes in an outstanding epilogue—a swirling 12-page trip through the kaleidoscope of contemporary China—he is at pains to place Needham front and center in our understanding of the nation that now plays such a huge role in American life. B&w photos, maps. (May)
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Top Customer Reviews
Noel Joseph Terrence Montgomery Needham is the subject of Mr. Winchester’s 19th work, sound familiar? Not to me. However by the end of the book I look forward to seeking out more about this man as Mr. Winchester has a knack for catalyzing a reader’s interest well beyond the book he offers. Professor Needham was a astonishing man who filled his 94 years with remarkable travels, eccentric behavior and a decision so poor the reader will ask was he a fool or a knave? (Question posed by the author)
What is not in dispute is the marvelous history of China Professor Needham documented through first hand investigation over thousands of miles traveled in China (many in war time) and the decades of research that followed. The only other historian that comes to mind as being so single minded in his pursuit of a subject is Sir Martin Gilbert and his decades long work on Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.
The work is also timely as it coincides with China’s re-entry as a focal point for the world. China’s existence is best measured in millennia and her scientific contributions when listed are nearly as long and often pre-date conventional wisdom on who was first with a given invention. Think you know where printing was first documented, suspension bridges first built, how about the compass, blood circulation or perhaps a flame-thrower?
China’s recent history is no indicator of its fantastic past and may more likely be an indicator of what is yet to come. This is another great read by a wonderful author who never disappoints.
This seminal work, this magnum opus, Needham's life work - spanning 50 years in the preparation and still incomplete at his death in 1995 - was, in essence, to burst the bubble of the West's parochial conceit that we are the birthplace of all that is important in science and technology.
Life as an accomplished, well-respected biochemist on the faculty of Cambridge University simply wasn't enough for the awesome intellect of an insatiable polymath like Joseph Needham. His love affair with the history of the Middle Kingdom began concurrently with a blossoming extra-marital love for Lu Gwei-djen, one of his students. This affair, conducted in a curiously open manner for such a staunchly staid, conservative and venerable institution as Cambridge, was, equally curiously, accepted and tolerated by Dorothy Needham, his wife and scientific colleague, for the duration of all three of their lives. As Lu Gwei-djen taught him her language, Needham dove headlong into an intense exploration of China's rich, sophisticated and exciting culture and history.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Simon Winchester is always a good read, and this one is no exception. Fabulous account of Chinese Science as well as a fascinating biography of Joseph Needham, the man who brought... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Robert A. Runte
An deep study of what one dedicated person went through to learned about China's historical greatness.
Highly recommended. No more xenophobia.
As a Chinese and a scientist I really enjoyed reading about the development of science in China. I think Simon Winchester did an xcellent job in his research.Published on April 10 2013 by Amazon Customer
I recently listened to my first China audio-book, The Man Who Loved China, by Simon Winchester. I had heard about this book, but admit the title put me off. Read morePublished on Dec 27 2011 by Troy Parfitt
Winchester's account of Joseph Needham shows a Needham-esque fascination with intricate detail -- be it the social world of Edwardian England or the topography of western China. Read morePublished on Dec 17 2010 by Brian Griffith
I bought this book quite a long time ago. I didn't order it because I had any particular interest in Joseph Needham (indeed, I had never heard of him) but rather because I had read... Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2010 by C. J. Thompson
Simon Winchester is a wonderful storyteller and his bio of Joseph Needham brings to light an amazing man who followed his ideals and created a better world for all.Published on Aug. 12 2010 by Becky2
I find the writer good but Needham does not seem quite worthy of a popular biography on this scale - I started to get bored despite Winchester's valiant attempts to make something... Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2009 by Dan Dupre
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