Ascent of Man

This summary is taken from Wikipedia (Source)

The Ascent of Man is a thirteen-part documentary television series produced by the BBC and Time-Life Films first transmitted in 1973, written and presented byJacob Bronowski. Intended as a series of “personal view” documentaries in the manner of Kenneth Clark’s 1969 series Civilisation, the series received acclaim for Bronowski’s highly informed but eloquently simple analysis, his long unscripted monologues and its extensive location shoots.

The 13-part series was shot on 16mm film. Executive Producer was Adrian Malone, film directors were Dick Gilling, Mick Jackson and David Kennard. Quotations were read by actors Roy Dotrice and Joss Ackland. Series music was by Dudley Simpson with Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Additional music includes, amongst others, music by Pink Floyd. Apart from Bronowski, the only other named person appearing is the sculptor, Henry Moore.

Malone and Kennard later emigrated to Hollywood, where they produced Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Jackson followed them, and now directs feature films.
The title alludes to The Descent of Man, the second book on evolution by Charles Darwin. Over the series’ thirteen episodes, Bronowski travelled around the world in order to trace the development of human society through its understanding of science. It was commissioned specifically to complement Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation(1969), in which Clark argued that art reflected and was informed by the major driving forces in cultural evolution. Bronowski wrote in his 1951 book The Commonsense of Science: “It has been one of the most destructive modern prejudices that art and science are different and somehow incompatible interests”. Both series were commissioned by David Attenborough, then controller of BBC Two, whose colleague Aubrey Singer had been astonished by Attenborough prioritising an arts series given his science background.

The book of the series, The Ascent of Man: A Personal View, is an almost word-for-word transcript from the television episodes, diverging from Bronowski’s original narration only where the lack of images might make its meaning unclear. A few details of the film version were omitted from the book, notably Episode 11, “Knowledge or Certainty.” It begins by showing the face of Stefan Borgrajewicz as an elderly man who had known suffering. At the end, after Bronowski shows us the ruins of Hiroshima and the ash-strewn pond at Auschwitz (a 16mm filmstrip of this scene is shown in the book), we see again a shot of the older Borgrajewicz dissolving to a photograph of a younger man with the name “BOR-GRAJEWICZ, Stefan” and the number 125558, which may be his official record in the archives of Auschwitz.
Just over a year after the series appeared, Bronowski died of a heart attack aged 66.

The Ascent of Man is still available on DVD and remains compelling viewing. Specifically take a look at the end of episode 11.