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The Ascent of Man

Jacob Bronowski’s magnum opus is an affectionate and literary hat-tip to our species. In the forward of the book, he shares the story by which the BBC contacted him to create a television companion piece to parrot concepts lovingly expressed in the book. Through this story, Bronowski offers a comparative lens through which ideas are deployed through television:

“Television is an admirable medium for exposition in several ways: powerful and immediate to the eye, able to take the spectator boldly into the places and processes that are described, and conversational enough to make him conscious that what he witnesses are not events but the actions of people.

“It is addressed to two or three people in a room, as a conversation face to face—a one-sided conversation for the most part, as the book is, but homely and Socratic nonetheless. The printed book has one added freedom beyond this: it is not remorselessly bound to the forward direction of time, as any spoken discourse is.”

Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man