China and Europe
Their Different Progress in Science
Authors: Needham, Joseph; Ronan, Colin A.
Source: Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Volume 15, Number 4, December 1990 , pp. 301-309(9)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:For a long time China was considered a land of peasant-farmers with a government of 'oriental despotism' until one of the authors showed in his researches in Science and Civilisation in China that China had contributed much to the development of world science and technology. In this review, reasons why modern science arose in the West and not in China are discussed. A strong central government based on the continuity of an Imperial Court needed a feudal bureaucracy which alone could deal with the problems of a vast territory. Yet this bureaucracy was recruited entirely as a learned elite based on literary and cultural subjects. Only a few disciplines such as mathematics and astronomy were admitted as scholarly pursuits, yet practical applications of knowledge gained after lengthy experience led to such Chinese inventions as paper, gunpowder, the chain-pump, the magnet, the escapement of the mechanical clock, and the interconversion of rotary and longitudinal motion. Other differences in the cultural, social and historical development of science in China and Europe are also considered.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: The Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, England
Publication date: 1990-12-01