Jacob Bronowski, a friend of many famous 20th century nuclear physicists describes the history of Man from Ape to computer-maker. He touches upon the history of art, empires and science. Written by
"The Ascent of Man" is a wonderful and fascinating account of Man's rise from ape to computer-maker through many intermediate steps. Jacob Bronowski does a fantastic job narrating Man's history through the ages. Bronowski was a Jew who found refuge in England after the Nazis invaded his native Poland. Indeed, the most poignant movement in "The Ascent of Man" is when Bronowski visits a former concentration camp where many of relatives were done to death. I had tears in my eyes when I watched that episode. Bronowski's friendship with great nuclear physicists like Leo Szilard enabled him to present a unique perspective on the nuclear age. For example, Bronowski reveals that Szilard conceived the atom bomb when he stopped his car at a stop light and says that is the only part he could not believe - Szilard always ran red lights! Bronowski's account of Darwin and evolution and of Mendel and genetics are the best I have ever seen.
"The Ascent of Man" paints on a huge canvas. What else is suitable for depicting the history of Man? The only criticism I have is that "The Ascent of Man" is rather Eurocentric. It neglects the role of China and India in Man's progress, though it acknowledges the Islamic influence on Europe.
The program was made in 1973, yet it is not outdated. In the last episode, Bronowski prophetically hinted at the coming of the computer age - an age he would not live to see. It is a pity that "The Ascent of Man" is not available on video. Luckily, the book version is still obtainable. Having read it, I strongly recommend it.
Reviewed by Sundar Narayan
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