Renowned author, journalist and broadcaster Simon Winchester discussed his New York Times Best Seller The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom (HarperCollins 2008) at a luncheon program held at the New York offices of Jones Day on May 1, 2009.
Needham (1900-1995), the great Sinologist and English don, is a legend for his 24-volume Encyclopedia Science and Civilization in China. His writings also shaped the West's understanding of China through inquiries such as the famous "Needham question," which asks why China failed to industrialize when Europe did, despite its prior achievements in printing, explosives, navigation, hydraulics, ceramics and governance.
Needham's unconventional life took him from biochemical research in Britain to behind the front lines of Japanese-occupied China at the British government's request. His intellectual curiosity, energy and peculiar lifestyle captured Winchester's imagination and led to this book chronicling Needham's remarkable contributions. Winchester notes that a contemporary understanding of China ought to be grounded in Needham's life work cataloging all that fascinated him about China, from invention to Sino-British cultural and scientific exchange.
Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. Like Needham, Winchester's work is very eclectic: he has written, to name just a few, The River at the Center of the World, about China's Yangtze River; books about the great California earthquake of 1906 and the Krakatoa earthquake of 1883; and the best-selling The Professor and the Madman, which is to be made into a major film.
The program was held in conjunction with the publication of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China (Berkshire, 2009) by National Committee member Karen Christensen.