“Those who, like the author, have followed these paved ways past woods and rice-fields for many a mile cannot think of them without intense nostalgia.”
Author of the definitive work on Chinese science entitled Science and Civilization in China, Needham was already well-established as a lecturer in biochemistry at Cambridge University in 1936 when he met some Chinese graduate students and began what was to become a lifelong study of the history of scientific development in China. He taught himself Chinese and in 1942 was sent to China as an envoy of the Royal Society. He stayed on during World War II as a Scientific Counselor at the British Embassy in Chongqing, and in this capacity traveled extensively building up a scientific library. During this period he also had an opportunity to observe the Road to Shu firsthand and to walk the many flagstone roads that were then still common in the countryside. In 1948 he returned to Cambridge and began his monumental work on Chinese science. The quote above appears in Volume 4 Part 3 of this series (Civil Engineering) in the section on road building which discusses the Road to Shu among other famous roads.