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Joseph Needham

Joseph Needham
Joseph Needham.jpg
Born Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham
6 December 1900 (1900-12-06)
London, England, UK
Died 24 March 1995 (1995-03-25) (aged 94)
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, UK
Alma mater Oundle School
Gonville and Caius College
Cambridge University
Occupation Historian, biochemist
Spouse(s) Dorothy Moyle Needham (m. 1924; d. 1987)
Lu Gwei-djen (m. 1989; d. 1991)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 李約瑟
Simplified Chinese 李约瑟

Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham CH FRS FBA (/ˈndəm/; 9 December 1900 – 24 March 1995) was a British scientist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1941, and a fellow of the British Academy in 1971. In 1992, the Queen conferred on him the Companionship of Honour, and the Royal Society noted he was the only living person to hold these three titles.

Needham was the only child of a London family. His father was a doctor, and his mother, Alicia Adelaïde, née Montgomery (1863–1945), was a music composer from Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland. Needham was educated at Oundle School (founded in 1556 in Northamptonshire) before going up to the University of Cambridge, where he earned all his degrees: bachelor's in 1921, master's in January 1925, and doctorate in October 1925. He had intended to study medicine but came under the influence of Frederick Gowland Hopkins and switched to Biochemistry.

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Nevill Francis Mott
Master of Gonville and Caius College
Succeeded by
Sir William Wade

The "Needham Question"
  • Vol. I. Introductory Orientations
  • Vol. II. History of Scientific Thought
  • Vol. III. Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and Earth
  • Vol. IV. Physics and Physical Technology
  • Vol. V. Chemistry and Chemical Technology
  • Vol. VI. Biology and Biological Technology
  • Vol. VII. The Social Background
  • Science, Religion and Reality (1925)
  • Man a Machine (1927) Kegan Paul
  • Chemical Embryology (1931) C.U.P.
  • The Great Amphibium: Four Lectures on the Position of Religion in a World Dominated by Science (1931)
  • A History of Embryology (1934, 1959) C.U.P.
  • Order and Life The Terry Lectures (1936)
  • Biochemistry and Morphogenesis (1942)
  • Time: The Refreshing River (Essays and Addresses, 1932–1942) (1943)
  • Chinese Science (1945) Pilot Press
  • History Is On Our Side (1947)
  • Science Outpost; Papers of the Sino-British Science Co-Operation Office (British Council Scientific Office in China) 1942–1946 (1948) Pilot Press
  • Science and Civilisation in China (1954–2008...) C.U.P. – 27 volumes to date
  • The Grand Titration: Science and Society in East and West (1969) Allen & Unwin
  • Within the Four Seas: The Dialogue of East and West (1969)
  • Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West: Lectures and Addresses on the History of Science and Technology (1970) C.U.P.
  • Chinese Science: Explorations of an Ancient Tradition (1973) Ed Shigeru Nakayama, Nathan Sivin. Cambridge : MIT Press
  • Moulds of Understanding: A Pattern of Natural Philosophy (1976) Allen & Unwin
  • The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China (5 volumes) (1980–95) – an abridgement by Colin Ronan
  • Science in Traditional China : A Comparative Perspective (1982)
  • The Genius of China (1986) A one-volume distillation by Robert Temple Simon & Schuster
  • Heavenly Clockwork : The Great Astronomical Clocks of Medieval China (1986) C.U.P.
  • The Hall of Heavenly Records : Korean Astronomical Instruments and Clocks, 1380–1780 (1986) C.U.P.
  • A Selection from the Writings of Joseph Needham ed Mansel Davies, The Book Guild 1990
  • J. B. Gurdon and Barbara Rodbard, "Joseph Needham, C. H., F. R. S., F. B. A. 9 December 1900–24 March 1995," Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 46. (2000): 367–376. JSTOR
  • Sarah Lyall. "Joseph Needham, China Scholar From Britain, Dies at 94", New York Times. 27 March 1995.
  • Robert P. Multhauf, "Joseph Needham (1900–1995)," Technology and Culture 37.4 (1996): 880–891. JSTOR
  • Roel Sterckx. In the Fields of Shennong: An inaugural lecture delivered before the University of Cambridge on 30 September 2008 to mark the establishment of the Joseph Needham Professorship of Chinese History, Science and Civilization. Cambridge: Needham Research Institute, 2008 ().
  • Winchester, Simon (2008). The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN .  Also published in Great Britain as Bomb, Book and Compass.
  • Francesca Bray, "How Blind Is Love?: Simon Winchester's The Man Who Loved China," Technology and Culture 51.3 (2010): 578–588. JSTOR
  • Mark Elvin, "Introduction (Symposium: The Work of Joseph Needham)," Past & Present.87 (1980): 17–20. JSTOR
  • Christopher Cullen, "Joseph Needham on Chinese Astronomy," Past & Present.87 (1980): 39–53. JSTOR
  • Sivin, Nathan (1995), "Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China – Or Didn't It?", in Sivin, Nathan, Science in Ancient China (PDF), Aldershot, Hants: Variorum, pp. Ch VII 
  • Justin Y. Lin, "The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution Did Not Originate in China," Economic development and cultural change 43.2 (1995): 269–292. JSTOR
  • Timothy Brook, "The Sinology of Joseph Needham," Modern China 22.3 (1996): 340–348. JSTOR
  • Robert P. Multhauf, "Joseph Needham (1900–1995)," Technology and Culture 37.4 (1996): 880–891. JSTOR
  • Gregory Blue, "Joseph Needham, Heterodox Marxism and the Social Background to Chinese Science," Science & Society 62.2 (1998): 195–217. JSTOR
  • Robert Finlay, "China, the West, and World History in Joseph Needham's Science and Civilisation in China," Journal of World History 11 (Fall 2000): 265–303.


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