Wednesday 29 March 1995
Needham told me a wonderful anecdote about Mao Tse-tung. Mao asked him round one time in Peking and said he wanted Needham's advice about something urgent. Mao said he could not decide whether he should allow "his people" to have cars or whether he should make them stay on bicycles. What did Joseph think: which should it be? Mao couldn't think of any other Westerner with experience of cars to ask.
Joseph, who at home cycled all round Cambridge like a proper don, innocently remarked that he used a bicycle himself and found it very satisfactory. "Fine," said Mao, "then we'll stick with bicycles." The greenhouse effect was probably delayed by decades.
Joseph was the only person I have met who had a genuinely photographic memory. The perfect illustration of this is an astonishing story told to me by Peter Mitchell, the Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, who knew the Needhams well in the 1950s: "Doffy [Needham's first wife, Dorothy] told me one day that Joseph had a new hobby. He used to lie in bed in the mornings correcting his proofs [of Science and Civilisation in China] in his head. But he got tired of that, so now he lies in bed translating them into French first and then correcting them."
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland votes Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...
£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...