Science and Society in Ancient China

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Dr Joseph Needham
Dr Joseph Needham (1900 – 1995) Photographed by Ramsey & Muspratt, 1938. Copyright: the National Portrait Gallery.
Dr Tuan
Dr Tuan (Chinese Embassy)
Conway Memorial Lecture
Conway Memorial Lecture
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Delivered at Conway Hall 12 May 1947. Chaired by Dr Tuan of the Chinese Embassy and presented by Dr. Joseph Needham
Abstract

In all societies, philosophical, scientific and ethical thought are inseparable from material conditions. The feudal society of ancient China produced some excellent things in philosophy and technology. However, the subsequent persistence of feudalism in a new form, one administered by a huge bureaucracy, prevented the extensive growth of science and technology which has characterised the West since the decline of European feudalism. In the West, this growth resulted from the emergence of mercantile and then industrial capitalism, which were inevitably experimental and technically innovative. Mercantile and industrial classes did not emerge in China.

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