The Ascent of Man

A few weeks ago I wrote that I had started watching this 1973 BBC documentary, developed by David Attenborough, and presented by Jacob Bronowski, a very smart fellow.

Just a few moments ago I finished the last of the thirteen episodes, and I must say that it is one of the best scientific series I have ever seen, mostly due in part to Mr Bronowski who not only presented it but wrote it. He was a mathematician by trade, but he was also one of those chaps who just seemed to know everything when it came to science.

And in typical BBC fashion it was extremely well made with great photography, and filmed in places all over the world. The last episode was partly filmed in Mr Bronowski’s house in California, which was very interesting as you could tell that he is passionate about what he was talking about with the books, sculptures, and paintings in his house which were all directly related to what he had been talking about in the series (they could have been placed there of course, but I doubt it).

Something we notice early on is that Mr Bronowski does not read from cue cards, he talks directly to the camera with his very distinct British accent (he was born in Poland, but went to England when he was 13, and had to learn English). Some of the scenes contained continuous shots which went on for minutes before a cut was made to another camera, and he did all this in such a natural way, as if he was just making it all up from the top of his head. Respectamundo.

One of the most remarked on scenes in the series is this one…

I had read online that he found the visit to Auschwitz to be very difficult and that he wanted to spend as little time there as possible. That scene though was the most powerful scene in the whole series. The episode began with Mr Bronowski introducing us to an old fellow who was being used to help demonstrate the various kinds of light such as infra red, x-ray, and visible light. He appeared a few times in the episode, but after the video clip you watched above, we were shown a headshot of a much younger version of this man, probably taken by the Germans at Auschwitz in World War II…he was a concentration camp survivor. Quite a stunning end to any television programme I have ever seen.

Despite it’s age this series is well worth a watch for anyone who loves science, but even if you don’t it is worth watching just for Mr Bronowski because it reminds us that there are people out there who can explain to us in simple terms why the world is the way it is and that we must not let ignorance and orange people undo everything science has achieved so far. He was also a very thoughtful and articulate chap who Michael Parkinson considered to be one of his most favourite guests.

Next, I am going to make my way through Life on Earth, another excellent BBC series.

And I was so impressed with Mr Bronowski that I have added him to the MBMS Page of Fame, a most worthy addition if I ever saw one. I suspect that Sir David will be joining him soon, but that is a forgone conclusion, is it not?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.