Home TV by Decade TV Shows - 1970s Ascent of Man, The

Ascent of Man, The

1 9 7 3 (UK)
13 x 50 minute episodes

The most praised British documentary series of the early 1970s was The Ascent of Man, a thirteen-part scientific and philosophical treatise by Polish-born, California-based historian and philosopher Dr Jacob Bronowski (pictured at right), which explained how man came to be drawn, step by step, from one field of scientific discovery to the next.

The doctor’s confident and careful words were heard as his hunched figure bestrode the deserts or climbed the monuments and exciting pictures unfurled. His face reflected in a bubble of mercury was one of these. The airwaves as a spear cut its high-speed path was another.

Hours of experiments had gone into perfecting the technical effects of course.

The prop for one sequence, filmed in Holkham, Norfolk, explaining the early methods of x-ray photography and radar, gave the producers headaches and the locals something of a scare.

It was a large human head, made from canvas over a chicken-wire base – and it appeared, apparently from nowhere, on the beach one day, staring eerily out to sea.

The Ascent Of Man took four years to reach the screen and when it did Jacob Bronowski was in hospital suffering from the fatigue of it all. He died the following year.