By the end of the 1930s, Frederick Gowland Hopkins had built his Cambridge laboratory into the pre-eminent institute of biochemistry that was a magnet for scientists from all over the world. Even so, it was an exceptional event that saw a young Chinese student leave a homeland at that time relatively isolated from the West and embark on a research career in his department. Within 2 years, she had published a highly influential set of papers on metabolism in the Biochemical Journal, a field that some 70 years on has once again become a major focus as its role in cancer is dissected. From the outset, however, she had come under the spell of the legendary polymath Joseph Needham to whom she would dedicate the rest of her life in a partnership that would unveil the astounding history of Chinese science to the world.

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