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The Ascent of Man

The Ascent of Man (1973) is a BBC documentary series, produced in association with Time-Life[?] Films, by Jacob Bronowski. The title is a pun on The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin. Over the course of 13 episodes Bronowski travelled around the world in order to trace the development of human society through its understanding of science rather than art. Although it was not written specifically as a refutation of Kenneth Clark's Civilisation (1969), in which Clark argued that art was the driving force in cultural evolution, the two series can be seen as a dialogue between two fundamentally opposed philosophies.

The Book of the series, The Ascent of Man: A Personal View by J. Bronowski, is an almost word-for-word transcript from the original television episodes, diverging from Bronowski's original narration only where the lack of images might make its meaning unclear.

Less than a year after the series appeared on BBC TWO, Bronowski died. Some claimed that the stress of working on the series had proved too much for him.

In the late 1990s Douglas Adams recorded new introductions and afterwords for a rerun of the series on the British satellite channel UK Horizons. Although billed as the first complete rerun of the series in more than a decade this was not true because the episodes were cut by up to five minutes to make room for commercials and the new material. In fact the complete series has not been screened uncut in Britain since 1986, and has never been released on video or DVD

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