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Banner Exhibition Series

Chinese Wartime Science through
the Lens of  Joseph Needham 1943-46
(An NRI project)

As a keen photographer and captivated by the land, cultural heritage and warm reception given him by distinguished Chinese scholars and scientists, Dr. Needham amassed thousands of photos during his time in Wartime China and subsequent research trips to the PRC.  The NRI, with financial support from several benefactors, including the JNFSC, is in the process of cataloguing and digitizing these collections.  The 1943-46 batch is the first of several such digitized outputs to be made publicly available on the Cambridge Digital Library of the University of Cambridge.


A selection of these wartime photographs were used to create 10 roll-up exhibition banners, which were displayed in the major universities in Hong Kong and Macau between 2017 -2018, and then selected secondary schools beginning in 2019. The first was St. Paul’s College in October 2019, with St. Paul’s Co-Ed College scheduled for early March 2020.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our entire plan for 2020; and relaunching is now planned as soon as the lockdown and in-person classes are back to normal next year.

Chronology of Banner Exhibit: Chinese Wartime Science through the Lens of Joseph Needham 1943-46


Dr. Joseph Needham made his first footprints in China in 1943-46 as the Science Counselor at the British Embassy in Chongqing (war capital) and also headed the Sino-British Science Cooperation Office. It was due to this wartime experience that he eventually decided to give up his creative biochemical research at Cambridge University, and devoted over 60 years of his life to authoring the monumental “Science & Civilisation in China” until his death in 1995 at the age of 94.

The Needham Research Institute holds a collection of about 1,200 wartime photos taken personally by Dr. Needham between 1943-1946, and completed digitization of them (now available at the Cambridge Digital Library) several years ago. 

Keenly aware of the importance of sharing the Needham scholarly legacy that shaped his conversion from biochemistry to the study of ancient Chinese science and technology, the NRI and the Joseph Needham Foundation for Science and Civilisation organized jointly with major tertiary institutions in Hong Kong and Macau to hold the Exhibition between 2017- 2018:

  1. 27 February – 17 March 2017: The University of HK- Main Library     LINK

  2. 30 March – 12 May 2017: The HKUST- Gallery for Special Collections     LINK

  3. 8 September – 27 September 2017: University of Macau- Dept of History  & Library     LINK

  4. 1 November – 30 November 2017: Poly University- Pao Yue-kong Library     LINK

  5. 4 December 2017 – 5 January 2018: City University of Hong Kong Library     LINK

  6. 22 January 2018 – 23 February 2018: Hong Kong Baptist University Library     LINK

  7. 26 March 2018 – 18 April 2018: The Chinese University of Hong Kong –Chung Chi College     LINK

  8. 16 May 2018 – 2 June 2018: Chu Hai College of Higher Education Library     LINK

  9. 2 October 2018 – 25 October 2018: Lingnan University Main Library     LINK

Details of the above exhibitions can be readily downloaded from the respective university websites.

A similar Out-Reach program for secondary schools planned for 2019 – 2020 is now underway:

  1. St. Paul’s College (69, Bonham Road) – 23 October - underway     LINK

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