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  • The Ascent Of Man : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1973]
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The Ascent Of Man : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1973]

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Product details

  • Format: Colour, PAL, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 18 April 2005
  • Run Time: 650 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000772842
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,215 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


The Ascent of Man is regarded as one of television's greatest achievements. Dr Jacob Bronowski traces the steps of scientific imagination through history as they happened, where they happened. This lavish and thought-provoking series tells the story of the ideas that have transformed our lives.

More than three years in the making, with location filming in over 20 countries, this award-winning series remains compelling viewing.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Simon Broadley on 22 Sept. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've learnt more in the course of watching this compelling series than I did during seven years of secondary school education.

It's not simply a matter of Jacob Bronowski's intellect, but his own life experience and essential humanity that shines through and informs every word. I've never seen anyone conflate the arts and science as he does - and with such charisma, as though he's sharing some secret knowledge with you. You can't help but be flattered by his concentrated attention.

It's a masterclass in the art of the authored documentary, effortlessly juxtaposing different periods, personalities and ideas and always with a satisfying visual style - from the framing of individual shots to the staging of elaborate set-ups (see the surreal opening to Programme 11 about the imperfection of knowledge in which a giant human head sits incongruously on the beach with an assortment of scanners, cameras and other devices arranged about it).

It's not simply the story itself and how Bronowski chooses to tell it, but how he encourages you to think about the nature of human progress - our journey - and the limits of our own knowledge that is most affecting. He makes you think, rather than simply 'receive'; he makes you care, rather than simply understand.

There's an additional nostalgic pleasure to be had that was not available to the original audience in 1973 - whether its the giant computer with its childlike rendering of atomic structures, the locations populated with what are now considered vintage cars or Bronowski's own delightfully idiosyncratic wardrobe.
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232 of 241 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Oct. 2005
Format: DVD
An epic investigation into human civilisation and one of the jewels in the BBC's crown, Jacob Bronowski's 'The Ascent of Man' was one of the most gripping and absorbing television experiences I have ever witnessed. At an age when I should have been going off down the pub and making a nuisance of myself, I stayed in, week after week to watch this production.
Bronowski, by the 1970's, was a well-known figure on British television - an intellectual and a scientist who could communicate the complex without sounding simplistic or making the viewer feel stupid. But 'The Ascent of Man' seemed a programme too far. The BBC charter, and the BBC's experience, might emphasise the need to educate and inform, as well as entertain, but surely an exploration of this nature was too vast and too cerebral for prime-time viewing? There were many who felt that it was pretentious of the BBC and that it would be played to a distinctly minority audience.
The result was not simply that Bronowski produced groundbreaking television and set the tone for the future, his exploration of human civilisation crossed the bridge of irony - the British public was not merely ready to watch this programme, they wanted exploration and enquiry, and they wanted the sort of production Bronowski could deliver. Here we had intelligent, intellectual analysis which was sustained by human values, not cold science! Bronowski conveyed passion and excitement and made knowledge and learning warm with emotion and anticipation!
Bronowski could inject passion into a fossil! He comes across as such a lover of life. This is not just a quick history of the world ... this is excitement captured on television, and now on DVD.
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202 of 210 people found the following review helpful By Patrick 7 on 22 Jun. 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I watched the original "The Ascent of Man" series as a teenager in the early seventies & periodically caught up with sporadic episodes via video recordings & repeat broadcasts over the years.
Having purchased the DVD box set & had the chance to watch all 13 episodes in sequence over a short period of time, I have been nothing short of spellbound by a second exposure to Bronowski's achievement & performance.
This is material you need to immerse yourself in totally - close the door & brook no interruptions. Bronowski's greatest legacy through these essays is the way in which he brings to life through his own understanding & humanity the key individuals who have dominated the history of science. Each viewer will draw their own conclusions & have their own favourites, but for me the desciptions of the life & work of Alfred Wallace, Gregor Mendel, Albert Einstein & Leo Szilard are peaks on the already high plateau of analysis & explanation.
The series is peppered with profound quotations from his subjects & wonderful prose from Bronowski himself. I would challenge anybody with an ounce of humanity not to be moved by the closing sequences of 'The Majestic Clockwork','The Long Childhood' &, of course, 'Knowledge or Certainty' which is angry, chilling & heart-rending all at the same time.
They do not make them like this anymore.
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170 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Dr. George L. Sik on 4 Jan. 2007
Format: DVD
There's a notice that hangs on the wall of many a BBC documentary producer which says something like: 'Remember - every programme should tell a story'. To say that The Ascent of Man achieves this apparently simple aim so successfully seems almost unnecessary, such is its reputation, but it's worth asking ourselves why it works so well.

In the end, it is the charisma of Dr Jacob Bronowski that is perhaps the key. He can talk straight to camera for minutes on end with no cross cutting, no punchy music and no heavy-handed visual metaphors filling the screen. Even in the best of today's documentaries, there is an almost desperate desire not to lose the MTV generation with, in the words of Bart Simpson, 'a four second attention-span'. Have we really lost the power to concentrate? The success this year of Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' which, aside from the odd bell and whistle, was essentially a filmed lecture, suggests not. We don't need television to talk down to us or assume we can't think for ourselves. Bronowski knew this instinctively.

His style is quiet but never shy, rich in the texture of his language and highly seductive. His views, even the highly personal ones, ring with a real honesty and integrity. His overall vision for mankind is, in spite of everything, an optimistic one.

No documentary presenter has ever, in my view, matched this. David Attenborough (who incidentally commissioned this series when he ran BBC2)comes close, as did Carl Sagan with his Cosmos series, and there is no doubting the enthusiasm of presenters like Patrick Moore. But the rot set in early and the meretricious posturing of the likes of James Burke led quickly to today's David Starkeys, the 'I'm cleverer than you are' school of presenters, as arrogant as they are unwatchable.
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