I’ve been so optimistic about the ascent of man. Am I going to give up at this moment? Of course not. The ascent of man will go on. But don’t assume that it will go on carried by Western civilization as we know it. We are being weighed in the balance at this moment. If we give up, the next step will be taken—but not by us. We have not been given any guarantee that Assyria and Egypt and Rome were not given. We are a scientific civilization. That means: a civilization in which knowledge and its integrity are crucial.

Jacob Bronowski

Born: January 18, 1908

Died: August 22, 1974 (Age 66)

Jacob Bronowski was a British mathematician and historian. He is best known for developing a humanistic approach to science, and as the presenter and writer of the thirteen-part 1973 BBC television documentary series, and accompanying book, The Ascent of Man, which led to his regard as one of the world's most celebrated intellectuals.

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The Ascent of Man 01: Lower Than The Angels
Television Episode
May 5, 1973
Jacob Bronowski begins his series by examining intellectual, cultural, and scientific breakthroughs in man's four-million-year evolution, and demonstrates the importance of new ideas and how they transcend other historical events in their cumulative, irreversible effects.
The Ascent of Man 02: The Harvest of the Seasons
Television Episode
May 12, 1973
In the long spring following the Ice Ages man develops agriculture and domesticates animals, imposing his will on wild wheat and horses. With the Neolithic cultivators come the mounted Nomads, the predators, and the roots of human warfare. Shot largely in central Iran.
The Ascent of Man 03: The Grain in the Stone
Television Episode
May 19, 1973
Man splits a stone and reassembles the pieces to build a wall, a cathedral, a city. This program is about man, the architect, builder, and sculptor. Shots of Greek temples of Paestum, cathedrals of medieval France, Inca cities of Peru juxtaposed with shots of modern cities.
The Ascent of Man 04: The Hidden Structure
Television Episode
May 26, 1973
From ancient Oriental metallurgy, through mystical alchemy this program traces the roots of chemistry. Shang bronze craftsmen and Samurai sword smiths are the starting point for a journey leading from medieval Europe to Dalton's atomic theory and our modern knowledge of the elements.
The Ascent of Man 05: Music of the Spheres
Television Episode
June 2, 1973
In this episode, Jacob Bronowski covers the evolution of math. Pythagoras, father of Greek math, considered numbers the language of nature. We follow the spread of Greek ideas through the Islamic Empire to Moorish Spain and Renaissance Europe, and explore the alliance of math to music, astronomy, and painting.
The Ascent of Man 06: The Starry Messenger
Television Episode
June 9, 1973
A closer look at humanity's attempts to map the forces which move the planets. The static nature of South American astronomy is contrasted with ideas of Renaissance Europe. Tracing the origins of the scientific revolution in the conflict between truth and dogma, symbolized by the trial of Galileo.
The Ascent of Man 07: The Majestic Clockwork
Television Episode
June 16, 1973
Newton and Einstein, the two giants of physics, imposed great systems of order on the world. This episode illustrates the revolution that occurred when Einstein's theory of relativity turned Newton's elegant description of the universe inside out.
The Ascent of Man 08: The Drive for Power
Television Episode
June 23, 1973
This episode focuses on the industrial and political revolutions of the 18thh century. Forces of nature were harnessed and the basics of political power shifted. Bronowski argues that in man's progress, the Industrial Revolution was a step forward as significant as the Renaissance.
The Ascent of Man 09: The Ladder of Creation
Television Episode
June 30, 1973
From the countryside of Wales to the jungles of the Amazon, Jacob Bronowski follows the stories of Alfred Russell Wallace and Charles Darwin who had the same idea simultaneously—evolution by natural selection. Their ideas helped others to probe the nature and origins of life.
The Ascent of Man 10: World Within World
Television Episode
July 7, 1973
In the vaults of ancient Polish salt mines Bronowski embarks on a journey to the hidden world inside the atom. He traces the history of the men and the ideas that made 20th century physics the greatest achievement of the human imagination.
The Ascent of Man 11: Knowledge or Certainty
Television Episode
July 14, 1973
Bronowski's statement on information and responsibility's a moral dilemma to scientists. Principle of certainty in physics applies to all knowledge. Examines implications of bombing Japan. Contrasts humanist tradition of Göttingen University with the inhumanities of Auschwitz.
The Ascent of Man 12: Generation Upon Generation
Television Episode
July 21, 1973
Math and physics brought revolution to man's ideas of life. From Mendel's work to discoveries of today, Bronowski unravels complex code of human inheritance. Sees sex as an instrument of evolution that makes every human unique yet breeds care between individuals.
The Ascent of Man 13: The Long Childhood
Television Episode
July 28, 1973
In this final episode, Bronowski—poet, playwright, mathematician, philosopher—draws together many threads of the series. He takes stock of man's complex, sometimes precarious, ascent, and argues that man's growth to self-knowledge is the longest childhood of all.

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