Posted: 06/01/2011

 

Genius of Britain: The Scientists Who Changed the World

(2010)

by Jef Burnham



Now available to U.S. audiences for the first time on DVD from Athena.


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Genius of Britain, which originally aired on the U.K.’s Channel 4, is a highly informative and engaging five-part series that seeks to set the record straight about the U.K.’s immense contributions to the scientific world. The series presents the stories of the men and women behind some of history’s greatest scientific advances as told by the modern day scientists who idolize them. Among those contemporary figures featured as presenters are Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, James Dyson, and David Attenborough.

The series hurtles through its subject matter at a breakneck pace to a tragically premature conclusion. Each episode highlights the work of some half dozen scientists, and although each episode moves incredibly fast as a result, the explanations of the theories and advances discussed therein are clear and concise. Moreover, the passion of the presenters, coupled with the series’ careful pacing, keeps the experience of Genius of Britain consistently exciting. Thus, when the series comes to its close after a fascinating, yet all-too brief conversation between Hawking and Dawkins about the biggest of unanswered questions, you’ll undoubtedly wish the series would keep going.

Fortunately, the third disc of this 3-disc set features a 90-minute, two-part series about the research into a unifying explanation of the universe entitled Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything (which was previously given its own stand-alone release from Acorn Media in 2009). Part one centers on Hawking and his attempt at developing such a theory. This episode necessarily repeats some of the information presented in the final episode of Genius, but his theories are afforded less explanation here than in Genius, focusing instead more on the man and his methods. In part two, we move from Hawking to theories such as super symmetry and finally string theory, which is the only theory of everything physicists currently find plausible.

In addition, this set features a 12-page viewer’s guide, biographies of the presenters, a timeline of British scientific advancement, and an article on biophysicist Rosalind Franklin by way of bonus features.

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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