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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 May 2017
Good historical presentation of the subject area.
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VINE VOICEon 26 December 2010
Over 6 episodes, Michael Mosley expounds the history of science from quantum physics to biology & ultimately to psychology. Given the breadth of the subject matter, none is dealt with in any depth. For instance the episode in which evolution is mentioned does not just focus on Darwin but rather provides one with its antecedents as well such the "uncomfortable" discoveries of the fossils of many extinct species, the realization that geological time spanned eons et cetera. By this method Mosley provides one with an understanding that the scientific discoveries were preceded by other discoveries & realizations that underpinned the latest discovery.

By this method, he makes it abundantly clear that science is not merely a series of Eureka moments but rather the culmination of prior discoveries or serendipitous events.

By travelling to Prague when discussing Tyco, or to Padua University in Italy when dealing with anatomy he provides a feel for the setting in which such discoveries were made. This does not merely result in a travelogue type of documentary but genuinely adds a visual dimension to a subject which could be presented in a dull & boring manner.

Interesting asides are discussed within the context of the subject matter. In particular, I found the discovery of mauve in the episode dealing with Chemistry interesting. Many more snippets such as this adorn this series.

Some people might find the fact that Mosley re-performs an experiment a waste of time in that it lacks all the details of the original one but it certainly adds flavour to the story.

One could be churlish & admonish Mosley on any one of the following aspects:
* Brevity of the topics dealt with
* Visiting the location where the original discovery or experiment took place
* Re-performing certain experiments
But what must be born in mind, is that is not a university lecture but rather a TV program aimed as entertainment of the general public like myself with no great desire to have a detailed exposition of the facts but who want a general sweep & overview of the events. In this, this program admirably succeeds.
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I'm a teacher of A-level general studies, and I think my students will enjoy these programmes a great deal. What none of the previous reviewers has mentioned is that an extra DVD 'Cell' is included which is a three part BBC Scotland production. This is really fantastic and well worth getting for A-level students either of biology or general studies.
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It's not easy to capture the entire history of scientific endeavour in six hours, but this series certainly offers an interesting and easily accessible overview. It also highlights some of the lesser-known characters from the last 500 years, not just the big names. So although Darwin and Galileo certainly appear, they don't hog entire programmes.
Each of the six programmes follows a theme through history; an understanding of the solar system, the development of chemistry, how geology influenced the theory of evolution, how humans have sought to power their lives, and so on. If you've never quite understood what atoms are or how evolution works, then this might be your chance to find out!

The presenter, Michael Mosley, reconstructs many initial experiments to demonstrate how great-breaking (or just plain weird) they were. This isn't stuffy, schoolroom science: it's an explanation of how the evolution of scientific understanding is intimately interwoven with society's development. Ways of thinking generate discoveries which in turn affect society and allow the next set of intertwined developments. This series makes it perfectly clear that `science' isn't separate from humanity, and it's not the work of single individuals in isolation who have `eureka' moments. Most science is collaborative or builds upon previous work, layers and layers peeling back to reveal something closer to the truth at each stage. The BBC have aimed to present the story of how scientific ideas shaped the modern world and how science made history.What is out there, what is the world made of, where did we come from?

The filming uses very familiar techniques; a bit of globe-trotting to picturesque locations and plenty of talking to camera in famous places where Things Were Discovered. This series also uses a graphic timeline to try to illustrate it idea of interconnectedness, which is not entirely successful. However, the episodes avoid the main flaw of much modern TV in that they don't endlessly repeat themselves and we don't have to watch the same footage repeated over and again with an increasingly `dramatic' voiceover and screeching music. The Story of Science is altogether more matter of fact and approachable, and all the better for it.

Michael Mosley comes over as a likeable, knowledgeable guy. He doesn't quite have the high-wattage appeal of particle physicist Brian Cox (Wonders Of The Solar System [DVD] [2010]) or evolutionary biologist Armand Leroi(National Geographic: Darwin's Secret Notebooks [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]). Mosley's script is deliberately plain, too, not like Leroi's occasionally dazzling use of language which can be inspirational and challenging.
In fact, the whole of Story of Science feels as if it was designed to be very accessible and not put too much strain on the audience. So it's great if you don't have any previous interest in or knowledge of the scientific world. Viewers with an interest in popular science might yearn for a little more depth, or maybe some linguistic flair in the presentation, however.

The six episodes of 60 minutes each come on two discs and offer heaps of viewing. This series is also available on Blu-Ray, although the photography isn't so wonderful that I'd pay extra for a high-def version. (Quite a few of the segments are standard bits snaffled from the photo library, showing gas swirls in space, volcanoes exploding, and so on).
So although I haven't learned a huge amount of new material from this series, I have found it to be very enjoyable viewing. It should be extremely useful for anyone starting to study the sciences, and will give older viewers a chance to discover how our understandings have changed in the last couple of decades.

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on 19 May 2011
As indicated by other reviewers, this is a huge topic to cover in six hours but, given that constraint, this series is about as good as it can be. I note previous criticisms of the presenter, Michael Mosley, which mainly seem to dwell on his ordinariness. However, Mosley's Everyman style, for me, is the major appeal of this and other series he has presented. Unlike 'Wonders of the Solar System' where frontman Brian Cox was saddled with delivering words he clearly hadn't thought up himself, Mosley's approach is engagingly natural and enthusiastic: you feel involved because he involves himself in the ideas and experiments he is explaining. A beautifully-produced series that is a great modern take on the BBC's Reithian principles.
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on 6 March 2017
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on 5 May 2012
I know for a fact how hard is to teach science or any scientific stuff to even graduate students in this country. I worked for more than 30 years as a lecturer and science worker in the field of Biochemistry, rarely away from the class room.

This BBC series is very well made, and highly recommended to anyone who might be interested in understanding the beginning of science and even to those whose perception of life needs to be expanded in a reasonable way.

I would humbly make one remark though: in one of the last episodes the writer spends a lot of time explaining energy, and yet it failed to demonstrate how cells yield energy for survival. I believe that with some insight in the matter the viewer could be enlighted about why the daily intake of food is necessary for the build up of molecules or to produce the energy we need to think and to move. Of course, there are explanations in several levels, biochemically speaking, but metaphors would be easy to use, in order to demonstrate the production, capture and usage of chemical energy within cells.

Having said that, I think it is an excellent series and I would heartily recommended it.
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on 20 March 2012
As mentioned by other reviewers, trying to squeeze 'The Story of Science' into six one hour episodes is a tall order. After reading some of the lower score reviews, I came to this documentary with a degree of apprehension and relatively low expectations. As a result, I was not too disappointed; although, like the Curate's Egg, it was only good in parts and not good overall.
Originally trained as a doctor, prior to departing that career choice, Mosley demonstrates his bias of knowledge about things chemical and biological, more so than in engineering and physics. However, he is a credible presenter and able to hold one's interest with his own appreciation of some of the wonders he unmasks in his story.
Clearly, as reflected in my review title, this is 'One Man's Story of Science,' which is inevitable given the breadth of the subject. The story of science as told in various books on the history of science holds a huge amount of 'stories' and it is really a question of choice by the presenter, which inevitably leaves out many other 'stories.' However, Mosley's selection did provide a consistent theme that tried to show how six important questions could be answered via the lens of a history of development of ideas and the associated science.
My biggest surprise was the fact that Mosley's introduction to each of the series suggested that his over-arching theme of 'Power, Proof and Passion' was a somewhat unique if not innovative way of looking at the history of scientific development. Whilst it is true that not every historical account would include these three elements, it is false to suggest any novelty in this approach. Many historical works on the subject of science's evolution reflect an appreciation of the fact that science is not a smooth linear progression; rather is is 'jerky' and driven by forces quite independent of the science itself, including pervading social norms, prejudices, political and economic power and larger than life characters. I am glad Mosley adopts such an approach, but the claim to uniqueness made me wonder how well he really knew his subject, beyond presenting a film script on a subject that provided him with an interesting journey.
For anyone seriously interested in the history of science, this documentary will simply represent another dumbing down of the subject matter due to the limited time available. As a result, most events were dealt with at a superficial level and as each episode drew to a close, events were hurriedly covered. However, as a broad overview of some of the pivotal events in the development of science it is an entertaining and at times illuminating journey. I should recommend the series but with the proviso that one should recognise it still remains, inevitably, one man's story of a much broader subject; nevertheless, it is a reasonable introduction to the subject.
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on 11 June 2011
Great DVD, It is interesting and detailed and as a teacher I just love it as it is put in such a way that anyone with half a brain can understand it , but it is well put together.I am using parts of it to add to my lessons (high school science). Love the bonus DVD "Cell". It covers all parts of our curriculum, however, it is in so much detail that you really have to watch it all - so it becomes too much TV watching for the topics.
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on 15 September 2010
Overall an excellent product. It covers the main areas of Biology, Physics and Chemistry via questions such as "What are we made of?" I have successfully used this DVD with a KS4 science class. I created a worksheet and used my Apple's DVD book mark system so I could easily stop, start and jump to just the section I wanted. My aim was to show the students how much they already know compared to the very best scientists, say 200 hundred years ago. It doesn't go particularly deep which is good and bad depending on the class but on the other hand it worked as a vehicle to show how our whole modern way of life is entirely dependent on the massive progress in science over, particularly, the last 200 years.

And, as noted by another reviewer, it comes with a "free" DVD 3 part series from BBC Scotland - The cell. This DVD is excellent in its own right as a good basis for KS4 and KS5 Biology.

Highly recommended.
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