Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Detailed Chronological Record of Project 523 and the Discovery and Development of Qinghaosu (Artemisinin)

I've been meaning to post this up for some time, so it's a bit out of date. This is the book published in 2006 that gives a historical overview of the artemisinin discovery, from the Chinese perspective.

Here's the citation:
張劍方. 遲到的報告五二三項目與青蒿素研發紀實. 羊城晚報出版社, 2006.
Zhang Jianfang. A Detailed Chronological Record of Project 523 and the Discovery and Development of Qinghaosu (Artemisinin). Yangcheng Evening News Publisher, 2006.

Zhang Jianfang, who edited the volume, directed the artermisinin project back in the 1960s, and the book is a good start on mapping the details of the discovery. But I think it's vital the Chinese make even greater efforts to record the oral history of the discovery - and do it now, rather than waiting. If I understand it right, one of the leading project workers from the 1960s/70s, Professor Zhou Keding 周克鼎, sadly died of old age a few months ago.

Another unfortunate problem is that the book isn't available online, and of course it's in Chinese. There is an English translation, but a Chinese publisher apparently backed out of printing it because he couldn't read English and worried the translation might say something that would upset the censor.

Dr Keith Arnold - the first Western scientist to hear about artemisinin when he visited Guangzhou in 1979 - kindly gave me the unpublished English version of the first two chapters back in 2007, but as far as I know the full translation hasn't yet found a publisher. Arnold's wife, Dr Muoi Arnold, did the translation.

There was talk at the time of posting the English version online, but I don't think this has happened. The British Medical Journal commissioned me to write an article on the book, but in the end they didn't publish it, so the story sank without trace.

For those wanting to know more, the only online information I can find on the book is the publisher's site, Yangcheng Evening News. I do wonder if you can order the book from Chinese Amazon, or similar (I haven't checked because I already own a copy).

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