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Jacob Bronowski started his career as a mathematician. He did work in England during the war that aided the Allies in maximizing the effectiveness of their air raids. After a visit to Japan in 1945, during which he studied the effects of the bomb at Nagasaki, he began to devote more of his time to sociological concerns.

One story I heard from a professor at UCSD: When Bronowski came to work at the Salk Institute, Jewish people were not allowed to own homes in La Jolla (the swank San Diego suburb in which the Salk Institute and UCSD are located). He was told by the housing commision that he would need a recommendation. In response he asked what kind of recommendation they would require. They told him, "You'll know."

A week later they received a letter of recommendation from the Queen of England. They subsequently allowed him to purchase a home.

Lord Bronowski was known not primarily as a mathematician or scientist but as a communicator of science and a humanist. He was a regular panelist on The Brains Trust in the 1950s. His books include Science and Human Values (1953), Common Sense of Science, Origin of Knowledge and Imagination and of course the book of the thing that made him most famous: the 1974 television series The Ascent of Man, which has a strong claim to be the best work ever created for television. While arguing strongly for scientific values and understanding, he insisted on the tolerance and humility essential to them.

The final moments of the The Ascent of Man are in the mud of a concentration camp. Bronowski lets it slip through his fingers. The screen fades to black.

He was born in Poland on 18 January 1908. He and his family fled to Germany when Russia invaded Poland, then to England in 1920, where he studied at Cambridge. He was a student with William Empson, working on a magazine Experiment with him, and himself wrote poetry. He never felt a sharp divide between literature and science: he called them two languages. He stayed for a while in 1933 in Majorca near Robert Graves and Laura Riding. He later published a book on William Blake.

Bronowski married the sculptor Rita Coblentz (working name Rita Colin) in 1941 and had four daughters. They lived in the Hexagon in Fitzroy Park, Highgate. He died in 1974, and is buried in the western half of Highgate Cemetery. He is marked with a small slab:


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