Books: Upward and Onward?

THE ASCENT OF MAN

by J. BRONOWSKI

448 pages. Little, Brown. $15.

Anyone who has puzzled over such things as the mysterious menhirs of Stonehenge or shaken his head at the extravagant ugliness of a modern office building knows that man is unique—and not merely because, as Mark Twain once pointed out, he is the only animal who blushes, or has reason to. Unlike other animals, man leaves behind him not just footprints and skeletons but complex creations—stone and social structures that succeeding generations can reject, use or improve upon.

Two years ago, Jacob Bronowski, a Polish-born, English-educated mathematician, historian and biologist, traced man's...