The Ascent of Man

The Ascent of Man

Jacob Bronowski

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 1849901155

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A new paperback edition of Dr. Bronowski's classic history of humankind, with a foreword by Richard Dawkins

Dr. Jacob Bronowksi's classic traces the development of human society through our understanding of science. First published in 1973 to accompany the groundbreaking BBC television series, it is considered one of the first works of "popular science," illuminating the historical and social context of scientific development for a generation of readers. In his highly accessible style, Dr. Bronowski discusses human invention from the flint tool to geometry, agriculture to genetics, and from alchemy to the theory of relativity, showing how they all are expressions of our ability to understand and control nature. In this new paperback edition, The Ascent of Man inspires, influences, and informs as profoundly as ever.

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realise that one must understand clearly how real-life situations are different from computer situations, exactly because they do not have the precise solutions that chess or engineering calculations do. I will use my own terms to describe John von Neumann’s achievement, instead of his technical ones. He distinguished between short-term tactics and grand, long-term strategies. Tactics can be calculated exactly, but strategies cannot. Johnny’s mathematical and conceptual success was in showing

give up at this moment? Of course not. The ascent of man will go on. But do not assume that it will go on carried by western civilisation as we know it. We are being weighed in the balance at this moment. If we give up, the next step will be taken – but not by us. We have not been given any guarantee that Assyria and Egypt and Rome were not given. We are waiting to be somebody’s past too, and not necessarily that of our future. We are a scientific civilisation: that means, a civilisation in

together from Greece, from the Middle East, from Asia. We think of Italy as the birthplace of the Renaissance. But the conception was in Spain in the twelfth century, and it is symbolised and expressed by the famous school of translators at Toledo, where the ancient texts were turned from Greek (which Europe had forgotten) through Arabic and Hebrew into Latin. In Toledo, amid other intellectual advances, an early set of astronomical tables was drawn up, as an encyclopedia of star positions. It

of parents. Fables about creatures that come to life spontaneously are very ancient and are still believed, although Louis Pasteur disproved them beautifully in the 1860s. He did much of that work in his boyhood home in Arbois in the French Jura which he loved to come back to every year. He had done work on fermentation before that, particularly the fermentation of milk (the word ‘pasteurisation’ reminds us of that). But he was at the height of his power in 1863 (he was forty) when the Emperor

crystals. They see in them the shape of a village on a hillside, as Georges Braque did in his Houses at L’Estaque, or a group of women as Picasso painted them in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. In Pablo Picasso’s famous beginning to Cubist painting – a single face, the Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kohnweiler – the interest has shifted from the skin and the features to the underlying geometry. The head has been taken apart into mathematical shapes and then put together as a reconstruction, a re-creation,

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