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History of  The Joseph Needham Foundation

for Science & Civilisation

Early 1960s

The East Asian History of Science Trust, U.K. 
(subsequently renamed The Needham Research Institute) 
Construction Site Photo_Cambridge.jpg
NRI shot.jpg

Dr. Joseph Needham and Dr. Lu Gwei-Djen

at the NRI construction site

The East Asian History of Science Trust (subsequently renamed the Needham Research Institute) EAHST was set up in England in the early 1960s by a group of Dr. Needham supporters who realised the importance of continuing the monumental Science and Civilisation in China project, preserving his unique library, and finding financial resources to sustain the Needham legacy via the construction of the Needham Research Institute in Cambridge, completed in 1992.

For more details visit

NRI Entrance


The East Asian History of Science Foundation USA

After a hiatus of over 20 years, Dr. Joseph Needham was granted a visa to the US to accept an honorary degree at the University of Chicago in June 1977.  A group of close friends and supporters led by Dr. Clifford A. Shillinglaw, and Mr. Irvin (Bud) Salk (an assistant to Dr. Needham at UNESCO in Paris in 1948 and younger brother of Jonas Salk, who was "the father of the polio vaccine"). Ambassador Phillips Talbot (distinguished journalist and diplomat, then President of the Asia Society in New York - he became a good friend of Needham while stationed in India during the 1940s), and others launched a fundraising drive to support the construction of a permanent library following Dr. Needham’s immediate retirement.  To overcome the tax-exemption issues for US benefactors in remitting funds across the Atlantic, the group founded the EAHSF Inc in late 1977, and worked tirelessly to secure funds from major corporations and non-profit foundations, including the Alfred Sloan Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and Mellon Foundation, among others. Apart from the Kresge Foundation’s matching gift for the construction of the permanent Needham Library, the bulk of the contributions were for the smooth running of the Library.

Dr. Shillinglaw, a senior executive of the Coca-Cola Company acquired an intense interest in things Asian, particularly China, India, and Japan.  He became acquainted with Dr. Needham after reading Vols. 1 and 2 of the SCC series in the mid-60s and became close friends thereafter.  He was especially notable for his early financial support to the EAHST in Cambridge, being a driving force behind Dr. Needham’s long delayed visit to the U.S. in mid-1977, and the leading role in establishing the EAHSF New York in late 1977.  Treasuring such friendship, Dr. Shillinglaw’s photo was prominently mounted above Dr. Needham’s Director’s desk. It was also through Dr. Shillinglaw that Dr. Peter Lee, a young research chemist with the Company’s Corporate R&D department, was offered an opportunity to assist in Dr. Needham’s SCC project.  This was the beginning of Lee’s involvement with the Cambridge scholar from the late 70s. Upon his death, the family donated the Shillinglaw Memorial Fund to the NRI.

Following Dr. Shillinglaw's untimely death in early 1979, Ambassador Talbot then assumed the Chairmanship for several years and was subsequently succeeded by Mr. John Diebold (a visionary office automation czar), Prof Nathan Sivin (scholar and collaborator of the SCC series), and Dr. Robert Oxnam (actively involved with Ambassador Talbot in the formation of the New York entity), respectively.

The EAHSF Inc was renamed the Needham Research Institute, USA in the 2000s.

With the major objectives largely achieved over the years, Dr. Robert Oxam, president of the EAHSF USA (then also or former President of the Asia Society) and speaker of the 5th Joseph Needham Memorial Lecture in Hong Kong in 2006, after consultations with both the NRI and EAHSF HK, decided to disband the East Asian History of Science Foundation USA in 2008. 


Dr. Clifford A.Shillinglaw  (1915 – 1979)

1979 - Present

The Joseph Needham Foundation for Science & Civilisation Hong Kong 
Phllip Mao speaking with JN at the backg
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Following the 2014 AGM, retiring Chairman Dr. David Li and newly elected Chairman Dr. Peter Lee and directors posed a group photo with JN-Philip Mao Professor Angela Leung, NRI Director MEI Jianjun, Benefactor Ken Mao

Following the establishment of the EAHST in the US, a Hong Kong branch was similarly established in 1979 by Professor F. Peter Lisowski, Mr. T. Y. Lee, and Dr. Peter L. Lee under the guidance of Peter Burbidge, Chairman of the EAHST UK.  To facilitate local fundraising in Hong Kong, it was re-registered as the East Asian History of Science Foundation in 1981 and inaugurated by Dr. Joseph Needham in Hong Kong on 14th October that year. The newly reincorporated foundation subsequently launched a series of fund-raising activities for building a permanent library and the endowment of the Needham Research Institute. Between 1982 and 1988, the East Asian History of Science Foundation in Hong Kong was instrumental in raising most of the funds for the construction of both the main library building and the south wing addition of the NRI in Cambridge. 

Although the fund-raising activities have focused mainly on the building of the library facilities and the endowment of the Institute, the Foundation has also been active in organizing lectures in Hong Kong to promote public interest in the history of Chinese science and technology. Travel grants have also been provided to scholars from China and Hong Kong to the Needham Research Institute. In 1995, EAHSF(HK) awarded a graduate fellowship to Mr. Mei Jianjun from the People's Republic of China to attend Cambridge University, where he successfully completed his Ph.D. in archaeology in 1999. Dr. [now Professor] Mei has been the NRI Director since January 2014. 


After almost 40 years of diligently pursuing the core values of the Needham scholarly legacy, EAHSF has finally adopted a new name, The Joseph Needham Foundation for Science & Civilisation Hong Kong. With this name change, we are firmly committed to bringing the Foundation to the next level of excellence by working closely with the local academic community, while partnering with the SAR Education Bureau in making the STEM joint series as a “go-to” event among secondary students. Moreover, our foundation together with the Needham Research Institute (NRI) will endeavor to perpetuate the Needham legacy with vigor. 

Officiating the opening of EAHSF by Drs. Philip Mao and Joseph Needham at the City Hall, Hong Kong, 1981

Past Directors of


Name of Past Directors               Name in Chinese                       Title/Profession                          Period Served

Dr. ANN Tsi Kai                                  安子介                              Company Chairman              (Decd)1979 – 1984

Mr. BURBIDGE, Peter G                                                      Chairman, EAHST Cambridge, UK     (Decd)1979 – 1981

Prof CHAN, Tony F                              陳繁昌                                President, HKUST                         2017 – 2018

Prof CHU Ching Wu, P                        朱經武                                President, HKUST                         2002 – 2009

Mr. FOK, David A.                              霍兆全                                      Solicitor                               1991 – 2017

Mr. GRABOWSKI, John                                                                       Solicitor                               2000 – 2002

Prof HO Peng Yoke                              何丙郁                               University professor              (Decd)1984 – 1987

Sir HOTUNG, Joseph E.                                                                Company Director                        1991 – 2001

Prof KAO Kuen, Charles                         高琨                                CUHK President/VC             (Decd)1994 – 2003

Mr. KING, Douglas J                                                                         Businessman                           1996 – 2003

Mr. LAM Ping Leung                             林炳良                                      Barrister                      (Decd)1979 – 1994

Prof LAU Juen Yee, Lawrence                  劉遵義                              CUHK President/VC                      2005 – 2011

Dr. LEE Jung Kong                                利榮康                                 Company Director              (Decd)1980 – 1911

Prof LEE Ngok                                      李鍔                                   University Professor             (Decd)1994 – 2019

Mr. LEE Tsung Ying                              李宗瀛                               Deputy Editor-in-Chief            (Decd)1979 – 1993

Dr. LEUNG Ding Bong, Ronald              梁定邦                        Physician and Bank Chairman                1985 – 1999

Mr. LEVENTAL, Dennis A                                                                  Business Executive              (Decd)1996 – 1997

Mr. LEVIN, Burton                                                                     Career diplomat/educator         (Decd)1991 – 1995

Prof LI Kwok Cheung, Arthur                  李囯章                            CUHK Professor/President                  1984 – 2002

Prof LISOWSKI, F. Peter                                                                 University Professor                (Decd)1979 – 1987

Prof MA lin                                          馬臨                          CUHK President/Vice-Chancellor    (Decd)1987 – 1999

Dr. MAO Wen Chee, Philip                  毛文奇                              Surgeon & Chairman              (Decd)1980 – 2003

Mr. SALLNOW/SMITH, Nick R.                                                     Company Director                        2014 – 2015

Mr. STEVENSON, George E. S.                                                            Solicitor                       (Decd)1980 – 1991

Prof TSUI Lap Chee                              徐立之                              HKU Vice-Chancellor                      2003 – 2015

Prof WANG Gungwu                           王賡武                              HKU Vice-Chancellor                      1987 – 1996

Mrs. WONG, Mary ( Mrs. PL Lam)                                                   Business Manager              (Decd)1979 – 1994

Prof WONG Siu-lun                             黃紹倫                                University Professor                       1998 – 2020

Prof YOUNG Tse Tse, Rosie                   楊紫芝                         University Professor/Physician                1987 – 1997

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