|The Ascent of Man|
|Developed by||David Attenborough|
|Directed by||Adrian Malone, Dick Gilling, Mick Jackson and David John Kennard|
|Presented by||Jacob Bronowski|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Adrian Malone and Dick Gilling|
|Production location(s)||Worldwide (27 countries)|
|Running time||676 minutes|
(each episode 52 min.)
|First shown in||BBC2|
The Ascent of Man is a 13-part British documentary television series produced by the BBC and Time-Life Films first broadcast in 1973; it was written and presented by British mathematician and historian of science Jacob 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, elegant monologues and its extensive location shoots.
The title alludes to The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin's second book on evolution. Over the series' 13 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."
The 13-part series was shot on 16 mm film. Executive Producer was Adrian Malone, film directors were Dick Gilling, Mick Jackson, David Kennard and David Paterson. 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 and The Moody Blues. Apart from Bronowski, the only other named people appearing are the sculptor Henry Moore and Polish Auschwitz survivor Stefan Borgrajewicz.
The complete series was digitally remastered and released on DVD in 2007 by Ambrose Video Publishing, Inc.