China and the Development of Science – Radio 4 In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Needham Question; why Europe and not China developed modern technology.

“What do these things have in common? Fireworks, wood-block printing, canal lock-gates, kites, the wheelbarrow, chain suspension bridges and the magnetic compass. The answer is that they were all invented in China, a country that, right through the Middle Ages, maintained a cultural and technological sophistication that made foreign dignitaries flock to its imperial courts for trade and favour. But then, around 1700, the flow of ingenuity began to dry up and even reverse as Europe bore the fruits of the scientific revolution back across the globe. Why did Modern Science develop in Europe when China seemed so much better placed to achieve it? This is called the Needham Question, after Joseph Needham, the 20th century British Sinologist who did more, perhaps, than anyone else to try and explain it.”

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martin56jones

"The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. " G H Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology (London 1941).

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