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The Man Who Loved China

The Man Who Loved China


The Man Who Loved China

evaluări:
4/5 (34 evaluări)
Lungime:
9 hours
Lansat:
May 6, 2008
ISBN:
9780061688102
Format:
Carte audio

Descriere

In sumptuous and illuminating detail Simon Winchester chronicles the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who turned his eccentric genius on the study of China.

In 1937 Joseph Needham fell in love with a visiting Chinese student. He soon became fascinated by China, and his mistress persuaded him to travel to her home country. Thus began his undying passion for the world's most populous nation.

Needham tackled one of the great, unanswered historical questions: Why did a nation that had invented so much and had enjoyed 5,000 years of flourishing civilization, fail to undergo an industrial revolution, and instead spend so many modern years mired in poverty and racked by instability and revolution? By the time he died, Needham had produced seventeen immense volumes on China, marking him as the greatest one-man encyclopaedist ever.

Both epic and intimate, The Man Who Loved China tells the sweeping history of China through Needham's remarkable life. Here is an unforgettable tale by one of the world's inimitable storytellers.

Lansat:
May 6, 2008
ISBN:
9780061688102
Format:
Carte audio


Despre autor

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.

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  • (4/5)
    Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in China is still the definitive work on the subject, in continuous print since the Cambridge University Press published the first introductory volume in 1954. In The Man Who Loved China, Simon Winchester turns his inquisitive eye and keen wit to Needham’s life and accomplishments, wrapping personality, history, politics, and science into the kind of irresistible story only Winchester can produce.Needham was a biochemist, not a Sinologist. He became interested in the Middle Kingdom only after falling in love with Lu Gwei-Djen, a Chinese scientist in Cambridge to study with Needham and his biologist wife Dorothy. After learning Chinese, he obtained a pre-WWII diplomatic post that allowed him to explore China and send truckloads of books and documents about China’s scientific and technological history back to Cambridge.As with his wonderful books about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything, Winchester uses the compilation and publication of Needham’s masterpiece as the backbone of this biography. He branches off from the central story to discuss the Needham’s socialist politics, his unconventional love life, and his role as one of Red China’s most “useful idiots.”This last item concerned Needham leading a commission to investigate allegations that America used biological warfare during the Korean War. In 1953, he issued a report substantiating the claims, although it was later determined that the Chinese government, with Soviet help, staged the whole thing. As Winchester put it, “Needham was intellectually in love with communism; and yet communist spymasters and agents, it turned out, had pitilessly duped him.” Needham was under a cloud for years as a result. America refused him a visa until the 1970s. Only the quality and stupendous success of Science and Civilization finally redeemed his reputation.Simon Winchester could write an interesting book about garden mulch, so it is no surprise that The Man Who Loved China, based on a fascinating life, is a fascinating book. This is one of his best.Also posted on Rose City Reader.
  • (4/5)
    Modern Chinese complications intrigued Dr Joseph Needham. His wife went along with his curiosity, and so did his girlfriend, also a scientist. There were boring pages, and, eventually the details were sorted out. I might even reread it.
  • (5/5)
    Loved this book.
  • (4/5)
    Fantastic biography. I love Winchester's extremely detailed, yet light almost offhanded way of handling his subject. You get day to day minutia alongside overarching themes. Well done and very readable.
  • (5/5)
    Fascinating biography of the great man. Written, and read, beautifully (including in his pronunciation of Chinese words and phrases ), by Simon Winchester.
  • (4/5)
    «The man who loved China» is a light read which doesn't do justice to Needham nor his project. Like the long subtitle, the book is frothy with more attention to the sensational than the substance. The chapter Fall from grace / persona non grata is downright confusing. I was surprised to learn that Needham did not live in China for many years, and his longest stint was during the Second World War.It seems Joseph Needham is still in need of a biographer. This is the first book by Winchester that is quite disappointing.
  • (5/5)
    An amazing story of a hitherto unknown character - Joseph Needham.
  • (3/5)
    This biography of the author of the massive history of Chinese technology is compelling reading. Needham was definitely a character, but that's what the Oxbridge nexus was creating in those days. There's a definite air of "Indiana Jones", about the whole project.
  • (4/5)
    Loved this almost as much as The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything. Winchester is an excellent writer of popular history of reference books. In fact, I think he is the only writer of them... certainly the only one that makes a living doing it! I'm waiting for his history of the Encyclopedia Brittanica...
  • (3/5)
    I read this for research purposes, but I soon discovered a deeply personal element to connect me to the book: Joseph Needham first ventured to China by traveling over "the Hump" to Kunming during the same period when my grandpa served there during World War II. This delighted me. As Needham explored China and fell more deeply in love with the place, I couldn't help but think of my grandpa and wonder if he experienced many of the same things.Needham was quite a quirky individual. A leftist nudist with an open marriage, his passion for his Chinese mistress led him to China in the thick of war. He traveled thousands of miles as he assisted scattered professors and scientists continue their studies during horrible circumstances, all while his own major idea germinated: to write an in-depth study on how China discovered many innovations first, sometimes centuries before they were 'invented' by the west.As with all Winchester's works, this is an incredibly easy read--both intellectual and accessible.
  • (3/5)
    I've read a few books about China, people from there, and people that traveled there. Few have really had the breadth of this book. Of course part of the reason for that is that few people traveled as extensively and loved China as richly as Joseph Needham.

    There are things to dislike about Needham, politics, religion, and morals. But while these define a person in the grand context of China and Needham these things fade into the background.

    Needham was the British Ambassador to China representing the British scientific community during WWII. There were other ambassadors dealing with political or war matters. I don't know if anyone else anywhere else had a comparable position.

    His enthrallment with China started with a pretty girl he met and learned Chinese before ever setting foot in China. Once there he fell in love with the country and the people. He traveled about visiting with Chinese scientists and assisted them attain equipment to teach, create, and experiment. In the course of his trips about he became aware that there were things that had been invented in China that had not been discovered in the west until much later. And credited in the west as western invention. This immensely excited him as he realized that there was a need for people that wanted to understand the world as it actually is to understand this. And so as he traveled he researched. He sent back many books to England.

    After the war he returned home and spent a few years helping Sir Julian Huxley create the United Nations Educational, scientific, and cultural organization (UNESCO).

    Afterwards he settled in a Cambridge and began work on what would be his magnum opus. His books "Science and Civilization in China" would be hailed by academia, historians, and China as a needed masterpiece to the world explaining for the first time to the Western world the great technological strides China made before the Western world made them.

    There was a great scandal where Needham traveled to Korea and examined staged areas for evidence that American was using biological weapons against the Koreans during the Korean war. Not knowing he was being set up he and other scholars report reflected that American was using biological weapons. There was enormous public outcry against him and for many years he was blacklisted from traveling to the United States. His reputation was severely damaged by this incident and his books were really a saving grace for his reputation.

    The Needham question goes along with the awe in the achievements of the Chinese people. What happened? Many inventions and advances were made by Chinese society but starting in the 1500s these advances stopped and for several hundred years China was in a stagnant dark age. This question has never been satisfactorily answered thought theories have been advanced.

    All in all this book will not only introduce you to a highly eccentric British scholar but will broaden the readers understanding of the Chinese people, her history, and where she is capable of going.


    Judgment on the book itself:

    The author does get carried away at least in one point where he is so busy condemning the Western world for thinking some invention was a Western idea and being all smug about thinking they are so inventive that he comes across as being just as smug and unpleasant giving credit to the Chinese as he accuses western scholars as being.

    While a love for his subject shines throughout the book and the author does try to defend or deflect criticisms from the Dr Needham through this work I don't think that this is quite hagiography. Though it gets close in spots.

    Overall it made me want to travel and adventure about.
  • (3/5)
    An odd story about Joseph Needham, a British academic who started writing the Science and Civilisation in China series. It is partly a biography, and partly an appreciation of what Needham accomplished. The Needham Question - “the essential problem [is] why modern science had not developed in Chinese civilization (or Indian) but only in Europe” is one of the themes Wichester works around. Needham was not trained as a historian or as an expert in China studies but he was brilliant and hard working. The adventures that Needham had while he was in war-torn China are interesting. His personal life is noted as extremely unconventional.

    I found there were too many superlatives being tossed around too casually. I have enjoyed other work by Winchester, but I don't think is his best.
  • (4/5)
    Being a fan of science and Asian things, this book fits nicely into my interests. Winchester gives us the life of an extraordinary man who was fascinated by the scientific inventions of China and posed the "Needham question" which was to ponder why these advances ceased around 1500, about the time scientific advances started in Europe. Joseph Needham was an adventurer, a lover, a scholar, and a left-wing activist. Any one of these would be enough to fill a book. All of them together made for a totally satisfying read.
  • (4/5)
    A fascinating story, although unfortunately many of the author's prejudices make for jarring reading at times.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant! part history book, part encyclopaedia and a thoroughly worthwhile read.
  • (4/5)
    A book about a man that wrote a book doesn't exactly sound like a formula for an entertaining work but Winchester pulls it off. It tells the story of Joseph Needham who spent his 90something years writing the definitive history of Science & Civilisation in China which he typed with 2 fingers. While it does read like a pop history book and has been consequently criticised on those grounds, it does filter a huge amount of information to a layman like myself. The fact remains that here is the story of a biochemist who debunked the idea that until recently China had no history of thought or technological innovation. His proof that China predated for example the printing press at 868 is food for thought as a reminder that our knowledge of history is constantly changing and it is wrong to assume that the Eurocentric slant we are given is definitive. Regardless, this is a good biography of an interesting man.
  • (3/5)
    Simon Winchester is a reliable populariser/biographer - you know you are going to get a good read and interesting facts. But he is also a little predictable and formulaic, and this book fits both expectations. While there is a lively re-imagined life of Joseph Needham, I thought that Winchester failed to analyse Needham's work sufficiently. I came looking for an in-depth examination of the Needham question and I was left a little disappointed. But still a worthwhile read. Read January 2011.
  • (5/5)
    Simon Winchester has made quite a career of finding outlandishly eccentric characters who had extraordinary, if often overlooked, impacts on the world. Whether it’s an insane murderer who almost single-handedly wrote the Oxford English Dictionary or a Communist philanderer who exposed the western world to the influence of Chinese science, Winchester has long able to take the odd outsiders and turn them into sympathetic and important characters. Joseph Needham, the protagonist of “The Man Who Loved China” was just such a character.Needham began his career as a biochemist at Cambridge University, though only one field could ever completely entice his polymathic abilities: China. While still teaching at the university, Needham fell in love with a Chinese graduate student, Lu Gwei-djen. The relationship, once given the go-ahead by Needham’s liberal-leaning (in politics and in love) wife, gave the professor an inside look at the culture and country that would eventually consume his entire existence. Needham devoured everything Chinese, learning to speak and read Mandarin within months and plotting the book for which he would become famous, asking himself “how did science develop in China”.Needham was given the chance to explore the question when he took up a diplomatic post during World War II in the itinerant Chinese capital, Chongqing. Needham’s ostensible mission was to visit the Chinese universities and assess their needs for equipment and supplies. But he also used the time to explore as much of free China as he could, speaking with scientists and gathering books and evidence that he would later be able to use to show the rest of the world what he already knew: China had developed scientifically completely separate from the western world and, in many cases faster than the western world. In fact, Needham believed, many of the West’s greatest advancements had come from the Chinese. Joseph Needham would spend the rest of considerably long life (he lived to 94 years of age) writing and editing “Science and Civilisation in China” an immense (in size and importance) work that today numbers 27 volumes and parts. His life was not without controversy, as his Communist sympathies and support of the Red Chinese government would seriously damage his reputation at various points during his career, but Needham’s exploration of Chinese science and technology has left a lasting legacy on the academic world.
  • (4/5)
    A detailed, enthusiastic and well-written account of one exceptional British scientist who dedicated the vast majority of his extraordinary life to studying the inventions, technology and other significant accomplishments of China and then meticulously chronicling them so that the world at large could better understand and appreciate them.
  • (4/5)
    Well, this was a very interesting subject and the writing was fine except for weird editing laziness where he kept introducing a bit of information like it wasn't already introduced. The book was enjoyable except for this strange feeling where I felt like the writer was afraid to just say something so passed it off quite passively like it was an afterthought or maybe a joke. Like he has these opinions he was too afraid to just say. Either say them or leave them out of what is supposed to be non-fiction anyway. I was even a bit annoyed at one point near the end when the writer mentions that the Unibomber happened to attend a lecture of Needham's about ancient chinese gunpowder and then asks this stupid question about whether or not his future crimes might not have happened had Needham not have shared his knowledge of the subject. Please. REally? Totally pissed me off. Sounds like I din't like this book, but I really did. I can't get enough information about China these days, and this book was very unique in the ground it covered so was a pleasure anyway.
  • (4/5)
    Once more Simon Winchester tells an enthralling story of a fascinating man.
  • (3/5)
    I'd never heard of Joseph Needham, but he is a fascinating man. He was a scientist, nudist, Morris dancer -- an most importantly, a man who created an encyclopedia of Chinese science and innovation without having any formal training in either history or sinology. What I most admired about him was that he was genuinely interested in the Chinese society and people he studied. He had a thirst for knowledge and really wanted to understand and get to know the people of China.Like Needham, I have wondered why China moved from the primary innovative nation in the world to a more isolationist and (at least perceived) backward society. I don't think Needham answered this question very well. Neither did Jared Diamond answer the question about China. His "Guns, Germs and Steel" gradually shifts from talking about Eur-Asia to Europe wiithout any explanation. Maybe there is no answer?This book is a biography -- a look at Joseph Needham's long and interesting life. Simon Winchester is a good writer with a knack for choosing interesting subjects, and this book was no exception.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting read that covers the extraordinary life of British academic Joseph Needham. He started as gifted embryology and morphogenesi and ended as one of the leading Sinologistst and lead author of one of the largest and longest publishing projects; Science and Civilisation in China, the first volume of which was published in 1954 and the last of which was published in 2004, 9 years after his death. A true eccentric he lead an extraordinary life and even with out his magnum opus, one that would have had a profound influence on the world. While Winchester is a great writer and biographer I felt that in this book he had too much material to work with and skips over parts of the story to keep it to a reasonable length. I would have p been prepared to read more pages if there and been some more details on his time in china and involvement with the key political leaders, and some more insight to his early work, as one of the younger fellows of the Royal society must have been doing extraordinary work.Still a very woth while read - and reminds us that we tend to have a very Eurocentric education and view of the history of science.
  • (4/5)
    This is the fascinating story of the eccentric British scientist Joseph Needham, a Cambridge Fellow who eventually became Master of the College but whose crowning achievement was the 17 volume History of Science in China which made him the greatest ever one-man encyclopaedist. As exciting as Needham’s story is I found the history of China to be equally riveting and enlightening. The world political turmoil of the mid to late 20th century also adds spice to the mix. This book was even more intriguing than The Professor and the Madman.
  • (4/5)
    Simon Winchester. The Man Who Loved China. 2008.This is my first audiobook. Winchester's book is a fascinating account of Joseph Needham, a Cambridge biochemist who fell in love with a Chinese graduate student. She taught him bits of her language, and through that he fell in love with her civilization. He wandered around China under the guise of a British foreign diplomat, going first in the early 1940s and last around 1982. He supplied Chinese scientists with much-needed scientific materials, and eventually became enamored a culture which discovered many so-called “Western accomplishments” long before Europe did: printing press, clocks, and gunpowder, for example. From this he began a massive encyclopedia on “Science and Civilization in China,” which blew so out of scope that he died before he could finish it. He was also a nudist, Communist, and Morris dancer. He had no formal education in history or sinology.First thing that struck me about the story was his way of finding China. Like me, he came to the language by falling in love with a Chinese woman, and realized what a rich, fascinating culture they have. He taught himself Chinese by keeping track of characters' different characteristics in self-made dictionaries. Not only do silly 17-year-old boys find the language through females, but so do distinguished Cambridge researchers!Needham's goal in his work was to demonstrate to the West that China was not inferior, that they were not always the backward and unindustrialized nation they were in the 1800s and first part of the 1900s. By a combination of fear and arrogance, the West did not always like hearing this; but his works were acclaimed by academics. For me they fuel thoughts on scholarly work in general.It was mentioned that he approached his topic with “empathetic insight.” He did not just want to analyze the Chinese, but he wanted to befriend them, understand them, see things from their point of view. It's a phrase that reminds me what one in religious studies should do as well. Always honor that which you seek to understand. If you learn only with the intent of refuting, how will you ever understand? William James wrote of the man at a party who argued with everyone. Soon nobody wanted to share their ideas with him. He may have thought himself the wisest man in the room, but really he was too idiotic to understand.Needham also realized that the politics of his day were unimportant. Now he is remembered for his work – not for the political uproar he created when he publicly supported Mao in the 1950s, not for the academic politics at Cambridge when scholars in history and sinology were miffed at him for stepping on their turf with no credentials. He is remembered for the Needham question – why did China stop growing scientifically so that the West could shoot ahead in development? - a question that Chinese events since his death have rendered somewhat irrelevant. He did not solve the question well, but posing it opened new avenues for those more trained in historical analysis to delve into. As Jeremy said, the questions are more important than the answers.His old age was the saddest part. His wife dead, his Chinese mistress dead, everyone his age dead, he continued working five hours a day until the day before he died. It was sad that he could not finish the project, and by his 80s volumes were being written mainly by others. What a reminder of the necessity of defining the scope of one's work!
  • (4/5)
    This book is published in the USA as the man who discovered China. Needham was a left-orientated biologist who developed a great passion for many things Chinese including several members of the opposite sex. He spent a number of years during WW2 travelling in China and interviewing scientists and librarians in pursuit of evidence that Chinese discoveries were rather more substantial than had hitherto been recognised. No doubt he was correct in most of his claims, although it is difficult at this distance to suppress a yawn and a muttered comment: "so what!".
  • (4/5)
    Simon Winchester delivers another biography about a British excentric, Joseph Needham, a Socialist, Morris dancing, nudist, free loving Cambridge biochemist who falls head over heels in love with a Chinese woman and in turn with her country and culture. His lover taught him Chinese which came in handy during WWII when Needham served as academic liaison in China, supplying the war-starved Chinese universities with British supplies, shipping back enormous quantities of books and traveling across the country in wartime. Setting out to answer something like Yali's question ("Why was China which invented practically everything long before the West conquered by the West?"), he manages "only" to compile the vast amount of Chinese inventions.Here starts the big failing of Winchester's book. He gives but a shallow introduction to Needham's Science and Civilization in China and never pushes to answer or even try to answer Needham's question. Winchester's book was retitled from "The Man who loved China" to "Bomb, Book and Compass", in my view to put it closer to Jared Diamond's magnificent "Guns, Germs and Steel" which answers Yali's question. China, however, did not suffer the geographic and biological disadvantages of South America, Africa and Australia Diamond covers so well, Thus, Diamond's explanation does not cover the Chinese case. Given that Needham et al.'s inventory of Chinese inventions is nearly completed, Simon Winchester might have started answering the question. A missed chance.Thus, the book is a readable account of an extraordinary life and WWII China but not a lasting achievement. Needham and China deserve bigger love.
  • (3/5)
    While interesting, it's basically about an extraordinarily privileged and brilliant man, Joseph Needham, who lived a privileged and brilliant life.He was from a lost age of erudite and madly adventurous Englishmen. However I found it hard to relate to his story. In terms of people exploring and having adventures I prefer Time Exposure: The Autobiography of William Henry Jackson and Ring of Fire by the Blairs, and even a man who is sort-of roughly Needham's modern equivalent, Rory Stewart talking about walking across Afghanistan.I guess in reflecting upon it, all three of those are autobiographical, whereas The Man Who Loved China is a biography, and in some ways I felt like Winchester almost admired Needham too much - it was hard to get a sense of Needham as a person, in the unremitting sequence of brilliance and achievement that Winchester presents.
  • (4/5)
    Why is it that the English have produced so many brilliant eccentrics who are fascinating to read about? Who knows, but they make great subjects for books.Simon Winchester, who I know through his books on geological subjects from the explosion of Krakatoa to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake has now chosen as his subject Joseph Neeham. Needham was a brilliant biochemist and fellow at Cambridge University. He was also a dedicated Socialist, a high church Anglican who believed in liberation theology before the term was invented, a fan of Morris dancing, a nudist and an ardent womanizer. It was this last personality trait that led him to what became the great love & consuming intellectual work of his life. In 1937 he fell in love with a brilliant Chinese student with whom he began a lifetime affair. He became fascinated with China, taught himself the Chinese language and then talked himself into a diplomatic mission to Chungking (Chongqing in today's parlance). There his ever inquisitive mind started pondering what became known as the "Needham question:" why did China, which invented so many technological firsts suddenly around 1500 stop their inventive activity and become stagnant and "backward" for the next 450 years?To answer this question, Needham first had to tell a doubting world the vast breadth of Chinese innovations from the inventing of printing hundreds of years before Gutenberg, to the compass, suspension bridges and even toilet paper (the impressive list is provided in an appendix to this book). In his quest for discovering the history of scientific invention in the country, Needham embarked on several treks during World War II that are described by some as adventures on the order of Indiana Jones and y others as the journeys of a fool-hardy idiot.Upon returning home to England after the war, Needham began writing Science and Civilization in China describing the county's astonishing history of technological invention. The one planned volume quickly became seven and then ten and finally eighteen upon his death in 1995/Along the way he befriended Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong, and ran afoul of Joseph McCarthy at the height of his red baiting fame. Yet through it all, Needham remained true to both his left-wing beliefs and to his magnum opus.Simon Winchester tells this story with clear-eyed affection for his subject writing in a breezy style that is more fiction than academic study. For anyone who is fascinated with China, or with men who follow their own drummer, this is the book for you.
  • (5/5)
    "No knowledge is ever to be wasted or despised." Joseph Needham's father told hinm this early in life, and he abided by these words. Simon Winchaster has done an excellent job of conveying the essence of Needham's life and work in this short book. Needham worked for more than fifty years to decipher the answer to his own question: Science in general in China - why did it never develop.? (Paraphrased by Winchester). But of course - it did as Needham documented in "Science and Civilisation in China - and of course the question I would ask is "Science in China - what will it do this century? I aam sure the answer will be a surprising one.