The BEST Episodes of The Day the Universe Changed

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Oct 11, 2019

Network: BBC

The Day the Universe Changed (the 10-part series) is one of the best teaching tools available today for making students aware of the great ebb and flow of ideas that have gone into the development of Western thought. Host James Burke gives a stunning overview of this evolution of thought since the days of the Greeks in this ten-part series co-produced by BBC-TV and RKO Pictures.

Worlds Without End: Changing Knowledge, Changing Reality

#1 - Worlds Without End: Changing Knowledge, Changing Reality

Season 1 - Episode 10

Observes that over the centuries Western civilization has regularly shifted its conception of the nature of truth. The series closes with host James Burke's remarkably prescient assessment of the role in which modern computer networks are beginning to now play in shaping man's current conception of his reality as well as how they may well define the fundamental nature of all future human interaction. And while his message is ultimately a positive one, it is tempered with the warning that while the promise of the computer may indeed provide a framework for a future anarchism where human freedom is nourished and where every individual conception of reality is a valid one, it could conversely become of tool of totalitarian repression and conformity.

star 8.86
7 votes
Directors: Robin Bextor
Writers: James Burke
What the Doctor Ordered: Impacts of New Medical Knowledge

#2 - What the Doctor Ordered: Impacts of New Medical Knowledge

Season 1 - Episode 7

Traces modern society’s recognition of the value of statistics to medical advances stemming from responses to the French Revolution and an English cholera epidemic. Identifies the origins of medicine as a science with the discovery of anesthesia, antiseptics, and bacteriology.

star 8.78
9 votes
Infinitely Reasonable: Science Revises the Heavens

#3 - Infinitely Reasonable: Science Revises the Heavens

Season 1 - Episode 5

Notes that investigators such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton evolved better explanations of natural phenomena than those of Aristotle. Highlights the theories that led to a new conception of how the universe works and of man’s place in it.

star 8.75
12 votes
Credit Where It's Due: The Factory and Marketplace Revolution

#4 - Credit Where It's Due: The Factory and Marketplace Revolution

Season 1 - Episode 6

Locates the origins of contemporary consumerism in the English industrial Revolution, powered by religious dissenters barred from all activities except trade. The invention of the steam engine, new forms of credit, surplus wealth, and opening markets laid the foundation for industrial society.

star 8.67
12 votes
The Way We Are: It Started with the Greeks

#5 - The Way We Are: It Started with the Greeks

Season 1 - Episode 1

Written and presented by James Burke, this 10-part series traces the development of Western thought through its major transformations since the days of ancient Greece. Program one is an overview of the series, showing how a culture’s view of the world around it determines how it sees itself, and is reflected even in the smallest details of its customs and habits.

star 8.64
25 votes
Making Waves: The New Physics: Newton Revised

#6 - Making Waves: The New Physics: Newton Revised

Season 1 - Episode 9

Points out that studies of the properties of magnetism, electricity, and light have led scientists to the realization that Newtonian physics is inadequate to explain all that they observe. The public, meanwhile, has continued to concentrate on the technological by-products of science.

star 8.63
8 votes
Directors: Robin Bextor
Writers: James Burke
Point of View: Scientific Imagination in the Renaissance

#7 - Point of View: Scientific Imagination in the Renaissance

Season 1 - Episode 3

Shows that Western Europe’s rediscovery of perspective through the study of Arab optics led to revolutions in art and architecture. The West’s new-found ability to control things at a distance resulted in new methods of warfare and the confidence to make long voyages of exploration.

star 8.53
15 votes
Fit to Rule: Darwin's Revolution

#8 - Fit to Rule: Darwin's Revolution

Season 1 - Episode 8

Tracks the expectation of change, fundamental to contemporary society, through the developing sciences of botany, geology, and biology to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory, in turn, has been used as a justification for Nazism, communism, and cut-throat capitalism.

star 8.50
10 votes
A Matter of Fact: Printing Transforms Knowledge

#9 - A Matter of Fact: Printing Transforms Knowledge

Season 1 - Episode 4

Observes that the invention of printing and the advent of cheap paper forever transformed the nature of knowledge from the local and traditional to the systematic and testable. Nationalism, public relations, and propaganda are among the results.

star 8.40
15 votes
In the Light of the Above: Medieval Conflict: Faith and Reason

#10 - In the Light of the Above: Medieval Conflict: Faith and Reason

Season 1 - Episode 2

Relates that in the course of overrunning Moorish Spain, Christian Europe discovered libraries, universities, optics, mechanics, and natural philosophy. This rediscovery of classical knowledge led to the founding of universities and the replacement of Augustinian philosophies by Aristotelian theories.

star 8.05
21 votes