Chinese science; explorations of an ancient tradition

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MIT Press, Mar 15, 1973 - Science - 334 pages
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Some readers will be drawn to this survey of traditional Chinese science by the idea that humanity has evolved more than one tradition of natural science that deserves to be taken seriously as a study in itself. Others will wish to explore the possibility that by reconstructing and imaginatively adopting the viewpoint of so different a culture, they might become more critical in judging what aspects of the West's Scientific Revolution grew out of local pressures and prejudices rather than out of the inner necessities of science itself. The volume falls naturally into two complementary parts. The first provides the reader with perspectives on the work of Joseph Needham, whose monumental, multi-volume Science and Civilisation in Chinais so largely responsible for the growing awareness on the part of inquiring people everywhere that the Chinese technical traditions reached a high level, and that the birth of modern science and technology owes a great deal to them. Needham's work has often been cited as the greatest one-man historical compilation of the twentieth century. Needham himself has contributed an opening "Meditation" to Chinese Science,in which he recapitulates the motive forces and ideals behind his life's work-of which the historical study of Chinese science is only one aspect. Derek J. de Solla Price then provides biographical material on Needham and gives an account of the genesis and evolution of his magnum opus.Needham's central concern with the effect of social and economic factors on the rate of scientific and technological change is examined by A. C. Graham. Shigeru Nakayama demonstrates through a study of all of Needham's publications the presence of a connected philosophy of history and of science that Needham evolved as a young biochemist concerned with the organization and development of life. The more numerous essays in the second part of the book extend Needham's work of mapping out the areas of Chinese science, venturing into provinces hitherto terra incognita.The contributors cover the Chinese world view, astronomy, optics, pharmacology, and medicine. In particular, they discuss the Chinese concept of nature (in an essay written by Mitukuni Yosida); the development, and limiting factors on the development, of Chinese astronomy (Kiyosi Yabuuti); the Mohist optics of ca. 300 B.C. (A. C. Graham and N. Sivin); the use of elixir plants, as described in the pharmaceutical manual of the adept Lu Ch'un-yang (Ho Peng Yoke, Beda Lim, and Francis Morsingh); "Man as a Medicine," the traditional therapy using drugs derived from the human body (William C. Cooper and N. Sivin); and the early history of anesthesia in China and Japan (Saburo Miyasita). The book closes with a critical bibliography citing books and articles in Western languages (N. Sivin). The book is the second in The MIT East Asian Science Series.

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Contents

2
21
The Chinese Concept of Nature
71
Development and Limiting
91
Copyright

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About the author (1973)

Nathan Sivin is professor of Chinese culture and of the history of science at the University of Pennsylvania.

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