In 1948, Needham proposed a project to the Cambridge University Press for a book on __Science and Civilisation in China__. Within weeks of being accepted, the project had grown to seven volumes, and it has expanded ever since. The first volume appeared in 1954 - wikipedia
The first years were devoted to compiling a list of every mechanical invention and abstract idea that had been made and conceived in China. These included: - cast iron - the ploughshare - the stirrup - gunpowder - printing - the magnetic compass - clockwork escapements most of which were thought at the time to be western inventions.
The publication received widespread acclaim, which increased to the lyrical as further volumes appeared. He wrote fifteen volumes himself, and the regular production of further volumes continued after his death in 1995.
Later, Volume III was divided, so that 27 volumes have now been published. Successive volumes are published as they are completed, which means that they do not appear in the order originally contemplated in the project's prospectus.
Needham's final organising schema was:
1. Introductory Orientations 1. History of Scientific Thought 1. Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and Earth 1. Physics and Physical Technology 1. Chemistry and Chemical Technology 1. Biology and Biological Technology 1. The Social Background
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