Shen Kuo

Shen Kuo

Shen Kuo

Birth : 1031 Qiantang,Song Empire

Death : 1095 (aged 63–64) Runzhou, Song Empire

Personal Information

Name Shen Kuo
Birth 1031 Qiantang,Song Empire
Birth Place Qiantang,Song Empire
Death (aged 63–64) Runzhou, Song Empire
Died At Runzhou, Song Empire
Fields Agronomy,Geology,Astronomy,Archaeology,Anatomy,Mathematics,Pharmacology,Medical Science,Entomology,Mineralogy,Geophysics,Magnetics,Optics,Hydraulics,Hydraulic engineering,Metaphysics,Meteorology,Climatology,Geography,Cartography,Botany,Zoology,Economics,Finance,Military strategy,Ethnography,Music,Divination,Art criticism,Philosophy,Poetry,Politics
Institution Hanlin Academy)
Famous Research Geomorphology,Climate change,Atmospheric refraction,True north,Retrogradation,Camera obscura,Raised-relief map, fixing the position of thepole star, correctinglunarandsolarerrors

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Events Occured in Scienctist Life


In his Dream Pool Essays or Dream Torrent Essays (夢溪筆談; Mengxi Bitan) of 1088, Shen was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass, which would be used for navigation (first described in Europe by Alexander Neckam in 1187).


Shen implemented an improved version of the camera, nearly 2000 years later.


His description of an ancient crossbow mechanism which he himself unearthed proved to be a Jacob's staff, a surveying tool which wasn't known in Europe until described by Levi ben Gerson in 1321.


Shen Kuo was born in Qiantang (modern-day Hangzhou) in the year 1031.


Shen Zhou died in the late winter of 1051 (or early 1052), when his son Shen Kuo was 21 years old.


Shen Kuo grieved for his father, and following Confucian ethics, remained inactive in a state of mourning for three years until 1054 (or early 1055).


As of 1054, Shen began serving in minor local governmental posts.


By 1072, Shen was appointed as the head official of the Bureau of Astronomy.


While Shen was appointed as the regional inspector of Zhejiang in 1073, the Emperor requested that Shen pay a visit to the famous poet Su Shi (1037–1101), then an administrator in Hangzhou.


In 1072, Shen was sent to supervise Wang's program of surveying the building of silt deposits in the Bian Canal outside the capital city.


He gained further reputation at court once he was dispatched as an envoy to the Khitan Liao Dynasty in the summer of 1075.


During the autumn months of 1081, Shen was successful in defending Song Dynasty territory while capturing several fortified towns of the Western Xia.


In the 1070s, Shen had purchased a lavish garden estate on the outskirts of modern-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, a place of great beauty which he named "Dream Brook" ("Mengxi") after he visited it for the first time in 1086.


Shen Kuo permanently moved to the Dream Brook Estate in 1088, and in that same year he completed his life's written work of the Dream Pool Essays, naming the book after his garden-estate property.


It was there that Shen Kuo spent the last several years of his life in leisure, isolation, and illness, until his death in 1095.


Following Shen's reasoning and correcting the findings of the dissection of executed bandits in 1045, an early 12th-century Chinese account of a bodily dissection finally supported Shen's belief in two throat valves, not three.


Mozi first described the concept of camera obscura 2000 years earlier during the Warring States period.


The book of the author Zhu Yu, the Pingzhou Table Talks published in 1119 (written from 1111 to 1117), was the first record of use of a compass for seafaring navigation.


Needham asserts Shen had discovered the survey device known as Jacob's staff, which was not described elsewhere until the Provençal Jewish mathematician Levi ben Gerson (1288–1344) wrote of it in 1321.


While visiting the Taihang Mountains in 1074, Shen Kuo noticed strata of bivalve shells and ovoid rocks in a horizontal-running span through a cliff like a large belt.


Around the year 1080, Shen Kuo noted that a landslide on the bank of a large river near Yanzhou (modern Yan'an) had revealed an open space several dozens of feet under the ground once the bank collapsed.


Shen's description of soil erosion and weathering predated that of Georgius Agricola in his book of 1546, De veteribus et novis metallis.


Furthermore, Shen's theory of sedimentary deposition predated that of James Hutton, who published his groundbreaking work in 1802 (considered the foundation of modern geology).


Wang Zhen also improved its use by inventing wooden movable type in the years 1297 or 1298, while he was a magistrate of Jingde, Anhui province.


This included the printing works of Hua Sui (1439–1513), who pioneered the first Chinese bronze-type movable printing in the year 1490.


In 1718, during the mid Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the scholar of Tai'an known as Xu Zhiding developed movable type with enamelware instead of earthenware.


There was also Zhai Jinsheng (b. 1784), a teacher of Jingxian, Anhui, who spent thirty years making a font of earthenware movable type, and by 1844 he had over 100,000 Chinese writing characters in five sizes.


In modern times, the best attempt at a complete list and summary of Shen's writing was an appendix written by Hu Daojing in his standard edition of Brush Talks, written in 1956.


Around the year 1126 it was combined with a similar collection by the famous Su Shi (1037–1101), who was ironically a political opponent to Shen Kuo's faction of Reformers and New Policies supporters at court, yet it was known that Shen Kuo and Su Shi were nonetheless friends and associates.


His tomb was eventually destroyed, yet Ming Dynasty records indicated its location, which was found in 1983 and protected by the government in 1986.


The Hangzhou Municipal Committee completed a restoration of Shen's tomb in September 2001.


In addition to his tomb, Shen Kuo's Mengxi garden estate, his former two-acre (8,000 m²) property in Zhenjiang, was restored by the government in 1985.


The Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing discovered a new asteroid in 1964 and named it after Shen Kuo (2027 Shen Guo).