Saturday 13 January 2024

Guest Review: The Ascent of Man By Jacob Bronowski

Dr Jacob Bronowksi's The Ascent of Man traces the development of human society through our understanding of science.

First published in 1973 to accompany the groundbreaking BBC television series, it is considered one of the first works of 'popular science', illuminating the historical and social context of scientific development for a generation of readers. In his highly accessible style, Dr Bronowski discusses human invention from the flint tool to geometry, agriculture to genetics, and from alchemy to the theory of relativity, showing how they all are expressions of our ability to understand and control nature.

In this new paperback edition, The Ascent of Man inspires, influences and informs as profoundly as ever.

Review: This book was published in 1973 to accompany the BBC television series of the same name. The series, detailing the history of scientific achievements, was commissioned as an accompaniment to a similar series on the arts entitled “Civilisation”. Dr Jacob Bronowski, a mathematician, physicist and biologist, was chosen to present the television series “The Ascent of Man”.

The book consists of thirteen chapters, corresponding to each of the episodes of the television series. The author’s main thesis is that science and the arts are not separable and that their advancement during humankind’s evolution and intellectual development are intertwined. Hence the chapters cover such topics as: the evolution of hominids; architecture; perspective in art; planetary theory; nuclear physics; and genetics. The topics are described in a way such that they are understandable to a layman. The author’s main argument is that humankind is unique among other life forms on earth in that it has the ability to record, learn and improve, allowing it to mould nature to its wishes.

I found this to be a a wide-ranging and interesting book, written by a polymath who had an excellent command of his subject matter. Although a scientist myself, it is written in a style that will appeal to non-scientists as well, and is a fascinating account of the history of science from the evolution of humankind up to the 1970s.

To order your copy now, just click here!

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