The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester narrates the story of Joseph Needham (1900-95). Needham was a Cambridge University don, polymath and the principle author of the Science and Civilization in China series. The series was originally intended to be one volume, but grew into eighteen at the time of Needham's death and is now twenty-four volumes with more still pending. Needham was a married biochemist who was having an extramarital love affair at Cambridge with visiting Chinese biochemist Lu Gwei-djen. It was through her that he became interested in the Chinese language and shortly thereafter mastered it complexities. In 1943 the British Foreign Office sent him on a mission to establish a Sino-British exchange program to help Chinese scholars behind the lines of Japanese occupied China. Many dangerous travels and adventures ensued. Needham avoided the Japanese occupiers and still managed to ship many old Chinese manuscripts back home to England. Upon his return he began to chronicle the great early inventions of the Chinese that would consume the rest of his life.
Submitted by Dan @ Washington Park Library