BBC - The Ascent of Man (1973)
This 13 volume series attempts a massive survey of science, from flint tools to the theory of relativity. The series, a co-production of the BBC and Time-Life Films was made as a science counterpart to Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation". It is given superb technical support, with two crews using innovative filming techniques, shooting in 27 countries. Dr. Jacob Bronowski makes for an unorthodox narrator, his non-scripted delivery ranging from hushed awe to trembling passion. He uses the crawling infant, the performing athlete, the development of the hunt and the discovery of fire to illustrate the most distinctive feature of man: imagination. His Scientific-Humanism is often spectacular, always provocative. The DVDs extra is a recent interview with Sir David Attenborough who recalls the making of "The Ascent of Man" series.
Written and narrated by Jacob Bronowski
Directed by Dick Gilling, Mick Jackson and David Kennard
Produced by Adrian Malone & Dick Gilling
Edited by Roy Fry
Quotations read by Roy Dotrice and Joss Ackland
Music by Dudley Simpson & Brian Hodgson
49 minutes per part, English audio, 1973
Part 1: Lower than the Angels
A multitude of evolutionary changes - anatomical and intellectual - gives rise to man's superiority among the animals. New computer techniques illustrate humanity's evolution, while x-ray and slow motion photography of an Olympic athlete in action show the complex interweaving of mind and body.
Part 2: The Harvest of the Seasons
Man domesticates plant and animal life. With the Neolithic cultivators come the nomads and the roots of warfare. Cameras capture the unique lifestyle of the Bakhtiari tribe of central Iran and there recreate the war games of Genghis Khan.
Part 3: The Grain in the Stone
Man splits a stone and reassembles the pieces to build a wall, a cathedral, a city. From the Greek temples of Paestum and the cathedrals of medieval France to modern Los Angeles, this film expresses humanity's faith and fancy as architect and builder.
Part 4: The Hidden Structure
The Shang bronze craftsmen of China and the Samurai swordsmith of Japan are the starting point for this journey, which leads from the beginnings of chemistry to Dalton's atomic theory and our knowledge of the elements.
Part 5: Music of the Spheres
Traces the evolution of mathematics and explores the relationship of numbers to musical harmony, early astronomy and perspective in painting. It follows the spread of Greek ideas through the courts and bazaars of the Islamic Empire to Moorish Spain and Renaissance Europe.
Part 6: The Starry Messenger
Here is the story of early attempts to map the forces that move the planets. Dr. Bronowski traces the origins of the scientific revolution through the conflict between fact and religious dogma, culminating in the trial of Galileo.
Part 7: The Majestic Clockwork
In the evolution of physics, the contributions of Newton and Einstein occupy center stage. This film explores the revolution that ensued when Einstein's theory of relativity upset Newton's elegant description of the universe.
Part 8: The Drive for Power
Industrial and political revolutions altered concepts of power during the 18th century. Dr. Bronowski shows why these developments were as significant as the Renaissance in our progress.
Part 9: The Ladder of Creation
Journeys from the valleys and waterfalls of Wales to the jungles of the Amazon to explore the controversy swirling around a startling new theory of evolution developed simultaneously by Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin.
Part 10: World within World
Commencing with a visit to an ancient Polish salt mine, Dr. Bronowski looks at the world inside the atom, tracing the history of ideas that have made 20th century physics "the greatest achievement of the human imagination."
Part 11: Knowledge or Certainty
Dr. Bronowski offers his personal view of the moral dilemma that confronts today's scientist, contrasting humanist traditions with the inhumanities of the Nazis, the harnessing of nuclear energy with the development of the atomic bomb.
Part 12: Generation upon Generation
Examines the complex code of human inheritance - from the experiments of pioneer geneticist Gregor Mendel to the discoveries of today's sophisticated laboratories.
Part 13: The Long Childhood
In this closing film, Dr. Bronowski draws together the many threads of the series as he takes stock of humanity's complex and sometimes precarious ascent.
Jan 11, 2012, 00:37:48
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