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Home > Embassy Information > Embassy Events > 2008
Launch of Joseph Needham's Biography in Britain

The launch of the English version of The Man Who Loved China, biography of Joseph Needham by Simon Winchester was held in the British Library in the evening of 23rd September. It was co-organized by British Library's International Dunhuang Project, 48 Group Club and Needham Institute of the Cambridge University. Sir John Boyd, Chairman of Needham Institute presided over the ceremony. Minister Chen Xiaodong of the Chinese Embassy gave a short speech. Douglas Hurd, former British Foreign Secretary, Christopher Cullen, director of Needham Institute, Dr. Susan Whitfield, director of the International Dunhuang Project, Alistair Michie, honorary Secretary General of 48 Group Club, Lady Youde, wife of former Governor Youde of Hong Kong, Sir Christopher Hum, former British Ambassador to China and over 200 guests attended the book launch.

Minister Chen Xiaodong expressed his warm congratulations on the book launch on behalf of Ambassador Fu Ying. He said that Dr Joseph Needham was a serious scholar and one of the greatest sinologists in the 20th century. He was well-known in China for his Science and Civilization in China. His works enabled the world to know better China's splendid ancient science and civilization and contributed to better mutual understanding between peoples of both China and Britain. The launch of his biography was highly significant for closer relations between China and Britain and friendship between Chinese and British people in the new situation.

Minister Chen said Simon Winchester's book would help readers to better understand Dr. Joseph Needham and his academic research. He hoped to see early launch of the Chinese version so that more Chinese people would be able to read. Chen also introduced developments of bilateral relations and expressed his belief that post-Olympic cooperation between China and Britain in every field would be deepened.

Simon Winchester introduced how he first decided to write about Dr. Joseph Needham and how he wrote it. He said that Dr. Joseph Needham was well-known in China but not so much in Britain. He hoped that the book would introduce Dr. Joseph Needham better and gave him his right place in the academic field. Simon Winchester also said that the Chinese version would be launched in Shanghai in January 2009.

Dr. Susan Whitfield introduced the International Dunhuang Project. She said that Dr. Joseph Needham was personally interested in protection and archeological research of Dunhuang. The project was being digitalized. Dr. Joseph Needham's transcripts, letters and other valuable information and materials would be sorted and put on the internet so that more people would be able to share.

Douglas Hurd, former British Foreign Secretary, presented Lady Youde, who is the wife of Sir Edward Youde, the former governor of Hong Kong, with 48 Group Club's life-long award. They cordially recalled their experience while working at the British Embassy in Beijing when they were young. Lady Youde said she had witnessed the decades of history of China from civil war to the Beijing Olympic Games and expressed her belief that Britain-China relations would have better momentum for growth.


Dr. Joseph Needham,1900-1995, was an expert on the history of China's science and civilization. He was the fellow of both the British Royal Society and the British Academy of Arts, and Chairman of British-Chinese Association of Friendship. Science and Civilization in China, 7 volumes of books compiled by him was first published by Cambridge Publishing House in 1954. It was one of the most important academic results in the 20th century and represented the highest achievements of academic research in Europe.

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