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Jacob Bronowski

And while we’re on rhetorical television and while I’m watching stuff in the hope my head will clear enough to work…. here’s a clip from the great leviathan of British rhetorical television, Jacob Bronowski’s ASCENT OF MAN. And a great moment from the great teacher, discussing the real worth of science while standing at Auschwitz. He would have died about a year, eighteen months after shooting this scene.

He once wrote: “It has been one of the most destructive modern prejudices that art and science are different and somehow incompatible interests.”

The first few seconds are silent. Stick with it.

Published in researchmaterial


  1. Excellent point.

  2. Wow. They don’t make TV like this anymore, which is a real shame.

    I’m impressed with his calmness. When I went I was ok until I got to the memorial and the showers at the back. Then I cried. I think everyone does. It’s an incredible place.

    Thanks for putting this up Warren. Been meaning to buy the DVDs for a while. Just ordered them tonight.

  3. Andreas Andreas

    Wow! Being from Sweden i havent heard of this guy. Powerful..

  4. JohnB JohnB

    I read this passage in the book ‘Ascent of Man’ before I ever saw this clip and it was one of those rare moments I can point to that my whole outlook on the world shifted almost instantly.

  5. You just made me shed a tear in front of my screen. His words gave me a strange feeling of deep, deep sadness paired with hope, joy and anger all at the same time. Strangest thing.

  6. kmcleod kmcleod

    I’ve never forgotten that scene.

  7. One of the great disappointments of my professional career (12 years in television) was when it came to me that I would probably never be able to create something as powerful, as simple, and as elegant as Bronowski did with this series (and in particular with this scene). Combine this with the great work James Burke did in Connections and Carl Sagan with Cosmos, and you have a true ‘golden age’ of television.

    Thank you Warren for digging this up.

  8. Very rarely is television incredible.

    That was incredible.

  9. stevew stevew

    Thanks for the reminder. It was perhaps one of TV’s best uses, ever.

  10. ces ces

    Very powerful, especially to see someone speaking in a prim and proper British accent to walk into standing water during a speech, without it being a Monty Python sketch. Great stuff, did we watch some of those together? Frank Longo gave me the book that the video series is based on, at least I think that’s the order, sadly that book is no longer with me. But perhaps I should renew my interest in it…

  11. anonymouser anonymouser

    That’s no prim and proper British. It’s in fact heavily accented with something Germanic – probably Yiddish, judging from his name – and something else as well.

    That being said, it’s powerful stuff…

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