Lu Gwei-djen

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Lu Gwei-djen
Born(1904-07-22)July 22, 1904
DiedNovember 28, 1991(1991-11-28) (aged 87)
Occupation(s)Academic, Biochemist,[1] Historian of science and technology in China
SpouseJoseph Needham (m. 1989)[2]

Lu Gwei-djen (Chinese: 魯桂珍; pinyin: Lǔ Guìzhēn; Wade–Giles: Lu Kui-chen; July 22, 1904 – November 28, 1991) was a Chinese biochemist and historian. She was an expert on the history of science and technology in China and a researcher of nutriology. She was an important researcher and co-author of the project Science and Civilisation in China led by Joseph Needham.


Lu began her distinguished career teaching biochemistry at the Women's Medical College in Shanghai between 1928 and 1930, then moved to teach at the medical school at St. John's University, Shanghai, between 1930 and 1933. She then took up a post as research assistant at the Henry Lester Institute for Medical Research, Shanghai, from 1933 to 1937.[3]

In 1938, she came to the UK for a year's postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge under Dorothy M. Needham, as a research student at Newnham College.[3]

In 1939, during World War II, she took up a post as research fellow at the Institute of Experimental Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, and at the Harriman Research Lab, San Francisco, from 1939 to 1941. She moved to the Hillman Hospital, Birmingham, Alabama, from 1941 to 1942, and then to the International Cancer Research Foundation, Philadelphia, from 1942 to 1945.[3]

In 1945, she joined the Needhams in Chongqing as a consultant for nutrition at the Co-operation office and in 1948, moved to Paris to work at UNESCO at the secretariat for natural sciences.[4]

From 1957 onwards, she was a research fellow of the Wellcome Medical Foundation, working with Dr Joseph Needham in Cambridge on the 'Science & Civilisation in China' project.[3]

She was a Foundation Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.[3]


Among the work on which she is credited as co-author are:

  • Lu Gwei-djen & Needham, Joseph (1980). Celestial Lancets: A History and Rationale of Acupuncture and Moxa. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Needham, Joseph; Wang Ling & Lu Gwei-djen (1971). Civil Engineering and Nautics. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. IV.3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-07060-0.
  • Needham, Joseph & Lu Gwei-djen (1983). Spagyrical discovery and invention : Physiological alchemy. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. V.5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521085748.
  • Needham, Joseph; Lu Gwei-djen; Combridge, John H. & Major, John S. (1986). The Hall of Heavenly Records: Korean Astronomical Instruments and Clocks, 1380-1780. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521616980.
  • Lu Gwei-Djen & Needham, Joseph (1951). "A contribution to the history of Chinese dietetics". Isis. 42 (1): 13–20. doi:10.1086/349229. JSTOR 226660. PMID 14831972. S2CID 10054102.


The Lu Gwei-Djen Prize for the History of Science awarded by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge is named in her honour[5] as is the Lu Gwei Djen Research Fellowship awarded by Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge - a position previously held by biophysicist Dr Eileen Nugent.[6]

Personal life[edit]

The daughter of a pharmacist,[4] she was well known as Needham's long-time collaborator, co-author, Chinese language teacher and his second wife.[7]


  1. ^ Yiu, Y.N. (January 2010). "The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester". Book Talk. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03.
  2. ^ Xinhua (24 September 2008). "Biography tells secrets of Joseph Needham's China love". China Daily. Xinhua.
  3. ^ a b c d e Newnham College Register. Vol. II. p. 170.
  4. ^ a b "Joseph Needham (1900-1995): A more detailed biography of Joseph Needham". Rise of the West.
  5. ^ "Gonville and Caius College: elections and awards". Cambridge Reporter. 21 July 1999.
  6. ^ "Dr Eileen Nugent". Lucy Cavendish College. Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  7. ^ Winchester, Simon (2008). The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-088459-8. Also published as Gun, Book and Compass.

Additional sources[edit]