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Unesco founder dies at 94

JOSEPH NEEDHAM, regarded as one of the 20th century's most impressive polymaths, has died. A leading scientist and orientalist, he helped to found Unesco, wrote about socialism and Christianity, made an international reputation in the Thirties as an embryologist and went on to become an established authority on China.

Yesterday, Rev John Sturdy, dean of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, announced that Mr Needham, 94, had died in his sleep. "He was one of the great men of the century," said Mr Sturdy, who had been associated with him for more than 70 years. "He had an extraordinary range of interests"

His opus covered subjects ranging from history, philosophy and astronomy to acupuncture and navigation. His writings encompassed Chinese history, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, shipbuilding and navigation, to name but a few. Such a broad range of interests astonished academics the world over, but Mr Needham did manage to attract criticism for claiming the Americans had used germ warfare in Korea.

Fellow of Caius from 1924 and Master from 1966, he became a director of the Needham Research Institute in Cambridge in 1976, where specialists continue to study the impact of China on the world.