The Ascent of Man
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Ascent of Man

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  3,021 ratings  ·  97 reviews
Lauded by critics and devoured by countless readers as a companion to the acclaimed PBS series, this work traces the development of science as an expression of the special gifts that characterize man and make him preeminent among animals. Bronowski's exciting, splendidly illustrated investigation offers a new perspective not just on science, but on civilization itself. Pho...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published August 1st 1976 by Little Brown and Company (first published 1973)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Ascent of Man, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ascent of Man

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Feb 08, 2012 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joshua Nomen-Mutatio by: Bobby Trigg
"It's said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That's false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how the...more
THE ASCENT OF MAN. (1973; this ed. 2011). Jacob Bronowski. ****.
It’s hard to believe that almost forty years ago I was watching this series on PBS. I immediately went out and bought the companion book to the series and read it straight through. This edition, published by The Folio Society, is a reprint of that edition with a new foreword by Mervyn Bragg, and was one of the presentation volumes for 2012 members. After reading it again, I found that some of its contents were slightly dated, but o...more
Jason Estrin
Brilliant. This book inspired me in a way that I've never been before. What is explained by the man, is nothing short of crystal clear descriptions of Humankind's physical, scientific, sociological and theological discoveries from the very first roaming tribes to our modern era. It is presented, stripped of the wordy, overly philosophical ramblings and data heavy meanderings found in other books that cover similar subject matter. Concise, endearing, earthy, genius. A must for anybody who needs a...more
Jee Koh
Based on the BBC television series of the same name, The Ascent of Man charts the development of human civilization through the lens of scientific progress. Though clearly intended to be only an introduction to its subjects, the book is tremendously wide in scope, taking in paleontology, architecture, alchemy, industrialization, quantum physics and genetics; noticeably, it has little to say about psychology. It is organised in powerful thematic chapters that are also more or less chronological....more
I assume you already know that this is a survey course of history. I read this book centuries ago -- perhaps in my 20s. I seem to recall that it (documentary and book) came out shortly before James Burke's "Connections", a similar series on the serendipitous advances in science. I know I was fascinated.

I would highly recommend The Ascent of Man to the bright young person with a curious turn of mind. History gets a bum rap (though I'm prejudiced) until one is reminded that it is woven, not drawn,...more
Todd Martin
This book is based on a television documentary series produced in 1973 by the BBC in association with Time-Life Films. The title alludes to The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin. The book traces the development of human society through its understanding of science.

The book is written in a rather odd and stilted style which I found completely bizarre at times. Here's an example:
"The role of women in nomad tribes is narrowly defined. Above all, the function of women is to produce men-children; too...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.

Like Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation, The Ascent of Man is a series looked up to by every producer of factual, educational TV programmes. It probably wouldn't get made today, as its broad canvas is not really fashionable, and it is not about ordinary people. Its subject is the history of science, far removed from the pseudo-anthropology of "Reality TV".

The arrangement of material is a little unusual; it is basically thematic, each chapter trackin...more
Koen Crolla
I never thought I'd say this, but this book would be better if it had been written by an anthropologist rather than a mathematician.

The Ascent of Man is the companion book to the 1973 BBC documentary of the same name; I didn't realise this when I bought it (I haven't seen it), but I remembered I knew of its existence upon reading the introduction. It certainly reads like a BBC documentary, with a tediously slow and pompous prose that works better for television narration by David Attenborough or...more
Paul Brogan
There are two things to remember about this book. First, it was published in 1973: it is surprising how, in the course of only 40 years, our knowledge of our evolutionary history has advanced. Second, it was originally a TV series made by the BBC, so the book is arranged into 13 essays, I assume based on the original episodes.

The book starts logically enough, at our roots in east Africa five million years ago. Bronowski doesn’t make nearly enough, however, of how touch-and-go it was, not only th...more
Seizure Romero
This book was assigned for a college course I took about a thousand years ago. The instructor was obsessed with Jacob Bronowski, so he played many, if not all of the documentary episodes that went along with the book, probably so he could sit in the corner and hide his boner (c'mon, the course was called "The Ascent of Man" fer chrissakes. It should have been called "The Life and Times of Jacob Bronowski Plus Some Stuff That Might Make You Ungrateful Wankers Appreciate Not Living in Mud Huts." T...more
I really liked this book.
It's full of fascinating facts and stories from our past. It consists of many episodes but it is essentially one long story. It's our story. How did we, human beings, rise from the animal world and become what we are today.
I will always remember the story about the appearance of first hybrid wheat in the Middle East and raise of agricultural societies.
There is also a lot of interesting stories about scientists. I’ve heard about all of them but I found so many amazing de...more
Jul 03, 2010 Nick rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Patricia Edie
Finished after 3 weeks of slogging through it. I took that long, not because it isn't interesting, but because it is. With a book like this one I like to read and give thought and analysis what I have read. It is just the way my thinking works, I guess I'm not that "quick".
The Ascent of Man is our scientific development from the start using small ancient hand tools and the emergence of our humanity through the development of quantum physics, DNA, cognitive science, artificial intelligence. and b...more
Ahlam al-jurdi
الكتاب عندي 257 صفحة فقط ..
بعد أن انتهيت وذهلت أستطيع أن أقول أنه نسخة أصغر فلسفياً وشمولاً لكنها أمتع أدبياً من كتاب كيف تغير العالم لجيمس بيرك .. عرض المؤلف بتسلسل ذكي خطوات ارتقاء الإنسان منذ أصوله الأقل بيولوجياً حتى عصره هو .. عصر ثورة العلم وإنجازاته .. مر على مستعمرات الصيد وحضارات كانت عامرة كالإنكا والإغريق عرّج على ديار الإسلام .. ثم عصر النهضة تناول قفزاته المذهلة بتركيز أكثر. كان ممتعاً فعلاً حس الكاتب العلمي أولاً ثم الأدبي والفلسفي مزج باقتدار .. في النهاية توصل إلى ذات النتيجة "م...more
Dick Edwards
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joan Colby
A marvelous study of man’s rise shown through the lens of scientific discoveries. Written for the intelligent layman, and the basis of the lauded TV series, this is an essential book for anyone interested in the evolution of science.
Hosam Diab
قرأته في طبعة سلسلة "عالم المعرفة" الكويتية، تحت عنوان ارتقاء الإنسان، ترجمة موفق شخاشيرو وترجمة زهير الكرمي. الكتاب غاية في الجمال والبساطة. رحلة في تاريخ العلوم متعرضاً لفلسفتها، مقترباً من الخط الفاصل الذي يميزنا كبشر عن سائر مخلوقات هذا الكون.
Lori Schafer
A fascinating series of essays on the development of humankind in both cultural and technological aspects, absolutely guaranteed to make you think about humanity's past and present in entirely new ways. It clearly does, however, hearken from an earlier era in which humanity was believed to be progressing towards something, an idea which nowadays is less commonly held. I personally was quite charmed by this very 70s sensibility - I almost felt myself being whisked back in time to my childhood of...more
I read many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember being amazed. Would like to re-read it as I have changed alot in the past 40 yrs.
An amazing journey into the history and philosophy of science, in book and TV documentary by the BBC. Changed my life.
For some reason I'm fascinated by the history of wheat.
. . . When I was twelve years old I watched a most remarkable television program. This program did not so much change my life -- I was twelve, just barely conscious of a life as something my own -- as it set the primary intellectual course of my life. My parents generously bought me the big book that was basically a transcript of the show. I have treasured that book for forty years.
I've recently finished a reread of Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man and I found it an exhilarating, inspiring ex...more
Alex Pasternak
I'm very glad a friend of mine lent me this book. I loved its unique approach to human progress: revisiting our various scientific and intellectual milestones. There's some dense material occasionally, but most of it was kept at a very readable level.

Bronowski obviously knew his stuff, and even had personal connections to some of the scientific breakthroughs he describes. Moreover, he has a clear love for science and for intellectual pursuits; he's not a dispassionate observer, but one arguing t...more
This was the companion volume for a tv series on PBS in 1973 that was the forerunner for many shows of this type. A little outdated now in its science. But still interesting. Here are a few examples of stories.

1. Horses. Horses began by pulling carts. Around 2000 BCE, men discovered how to ride them. A man on a horse created awe and fear in warfare. The Scythians swept over Greece on horseback, thus leading to the image of the centaur. In Afghanistan, they play a game called Buz Kashi. There ar...more
Gokul Gr
From the first stone tools to the discovery of genetics and nuclear physics, the author takes us through 5000 years of human journey and marks the landmarks and people which led to humans being placed as the most advanced creation of nature.

A few thousand years is a very small period in the scale in which changes through evolution happens. But humans, in the last 5000 years, have evolved culturally, intellectually and socially more than what any other living organism has achieved through tens of...more
saya membaca ini versi lamanya di tahun 80-an,
ketika dikenalkan oleh pak yuswadi saliya, pengajar sejarah arsitektur kami.
nemu buku ini lagi di goodreads, ketika sudah lupa lagi isi buku ini secara detailnya. hihi..

meski pun nama bronowski bener-bener asing bagi kami waktu itu, tapi pak yuswadi tidak hanya mengenalkan buku ini namun juga buku-buku bronowski yang lain lagi: the visionary eye dan the origin of knowledge and imagination. ini semua buku-buku mengenai sejarah ilmu pengetahuan dan sen...more
Simon Dobson
Often described as one of the classics of our times, this is a book of essays charting the various stages in the author's conception of the intellectual evolution of humanity. In a sense it should be compared to Civilisation, Kenneth Clarke's history of art: a personal selection of important events.

Bronowski's is a selection few would argue with, but he adds interest through his own personal acquaintanceship with some of the characters involved: Einstein, Born, and (most interestingly) von Neuma...more
Roberta McDonnell
Though I enjoyed the book and dvd, there are a few quirks that have set a number of social anthropologists off - things like stating that some cultures are somehow more primitive or less civilized. I think there was a little bit of unconscious channeling of the mode of talk of the time (late 60s, early 70s) and perhaps an unfortunate choice of words. If you can suspend the inevitable cringe at those moments then the series is really a very enjoyable and informative one. And there are some real p...more
Derek Bridge
Well, I'm coming to this one mighty late, but what a pleasure it is. It has huge sweep: the whole of human history. And it focuses on some of the things that make us human. What's fascinating is that to my mind Bronwoski focuses on an attribute that others rarely do: our aesthetic sense. He suggests that this underpins, even reconciles, our artistic, scientific and technological endeavours.

If there's a criticism, it's that the book is too close to the original TV script. The problem is not that...more
The Ascent of Man is an amazing book. It has great insights into how we've evolved as humans. I was fascinated by a part in the book that stated that the Arab world forbade the study of human anatomy. How advanced would the field of medicine have been had such a prohibition not existed? The book is meant to spark curiosity and wonder, two things that we don't encourage enough in today's world.
Fadhil Fadhil
كان لشعوب المايا نظام في الحساب متقدم كثيراً عن اوروبا . كان لهم مثلا رمز للصفر . كانوا رياضيين جيدين, ورغم ذلك فلم يرصدوا من حركات النجوم الا ابسطها. كان مرور الزمن يتسلط عليى طقوسهم . لقد سيطر على اشعارهم واساطيرهم
كان الفلكيون من كهنة المايا يواجهون معضلة عندما انعقد المؤتمر الكبير في كوبان . قد نتوقع ان تفجر مثل هذه المعضله الرئيسية التي تطلبت استعداء مؤتمرين من العلماء من الكثير من المراكز موضوعاً حقيقياً ظهر عند رصد انجوم . هنا سنكون مخطئين. لقد استدعى المؤتمر لحل مشكلة حسابية طالما اقلقت ح...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Ascent of Man 2 32 Mar 30, 2012 10:31AM  
  • Civilisation
  • The Living Planet
  • The Day the Universe Changed: How Galileo's Telescope Changed the Truth
  • Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind
  • Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science
  • The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
  • The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report
  • The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal
  • The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe
  • What Is Life? with Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches
  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
  • The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought
  • At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea
  • The Descent of Man
  • The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
  • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
  • Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World
  • The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing
Jacob Bronowski was a British mathematician and biologist of Polish-Jewish origin. He is best remembered as the presenter and writer of the 1973 BBC television documentary series, The Ascent of Man.

In 1950, Bronowski was given the Taung child's fossilized skull and asked to try, using his statistical skills, to combine a measure of the size of the skull's teeth with their shape in order to discrim...more
More about Jacob Bronowski...
Science & Human Values The Western Intellectual Tradition: From Leonardo to Hegel The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination The Common Sense of Science (Harvard Paperbacks) The Identity of Man

Share This Book

“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.” 230 likes
“There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy.” 10 likes
More quotes…