David Attenborough

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David Attenborough

About David Attenborough

After his studies in nature science at the University of Cambridge, broadcaster David Attenborough started his career as a producer at BBC. In 1965, Attenborough was made controller of BBC Two and was later named its director of programming. During his tenure, the station switched over to color television, and Attenborough contributed in expanding its natural history content. Soon, Attenborough left BBC to begin writing and producing own various series, including the smash hit Life on Earth, which set the standards for modern nature documentary. Since then, Attenborough has written, produced, hosted and narrated countless award-winning nature-focused programs and has devoted his life on preserving wildlife.

Early life and Education

David Attenborough was born on May 8, 1926, in Leicester, England as the second of three sons to a university principal and a writer. He and his two brothers would all find their way to the top of their chosen careers, which would take them far away from the city where they were born and raised. David’s younger brother, John would become a top executive for the Italian car company Alfa Romeo, and his older brother Richard would become an Academy Award- winning director and actor.

Despite the urban surroundings in which he lived, Attenborough’s love to the nature evolved early and when he was seven, he had a large collection of fossils and bird eggs. He participated in a lecture by the famous naturalist Grey Owl in 1936 which deepened his interest in the subject. After graduating from high school, he was awarded with a scholarship to study nature science at the University of Cambridge. When completing his studies in 1947, Attenborough was called to serve for the Royal Navy, Great Britains naval warfare force in two years. Anyway, his hopes that this would be his chance to see the world were dashed when he was sent to a ship in Wales.

In 1949, Attenborough returned to London and found work as an editor for an educational publisher. The following year he began a training program with BBC. In 1952, Attenborough completed his training and started working for television as a producer, marking the beginning of what would be a great career, both at BBC and beyond.


At BBC, Attenborough faced two obstacles. First, the station had very little programming devoted to the natural sciences, and second, his manager thought that Attenborough’s teeth were a little too big for him to be an on-air personality. Despite these hindrances, however, Attenborough proceeded, taking small steps forward on the path toward his ultimate destiny. He started producing the quiz show Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? and then he moved on to host a program called The Pattern of Animals with the naturalist Sir Julian Huxley.

However, Attenborough was not satisfied with the format of shows like these, which brought animals out of their natural habitats. Seeking to break this tradition, Attenborough launched a series named Zoo Quest in 1954. The program filmed animals not only in captivity, but in the wild, with the film crew traveling far and wide to capture the animals on pictures. Filming wild animals with respectfully distant approach, Zoo Quest established the general standards for nature documentares. The show was so successful that it made BBC establishing its Natural History Unit in 1957.

Despite his growing success, Attenborough left BBC in the early 1960s to study social anthropology at the London School of Economics. However, when BBC Two was made in 1965, Attenborough was questioned to return to the station as its controller. In this capacity and as director of programming for both the BBC and BBC Two, Attenborough continued his great career, pioneering such educational series as The Ascent of Man and Civilisation, overseeing the BBC’s change to color television. In 1970, the British Academy honored him with the Desmond Davis Award. Still, Attenborough could not shake away the passion that had remained with him since he was young, and in 1972, he resigned from his post at BBC to follow his dreams into the wild.

”Life on Earth”

After leaving BBC, Attenborough began to produce TV series as a freelancer and quickly established himself with a string of successful programs, including Eastwards with Attenborough (1973), which featured an anthropological study of Indonesia, and The Tribal Eye (1975). But Attenborough’s greatest success would come in 1976, when his program Life on Earth first was send on TV. A 96-episode examination of evolution in nature, the show took Attenborough and his crew around the whole world, using cutting-edge filming techniques to bring wildlife into homes worldwide, gaining a viewing audience of more than 500 million people.

The success of Life on Earth made Attenborough a famous name and, in the decades that followed, allowed him to write, produce and host countless other programs, including The Trials of Life (1990), which focused on animal behavior, Gallop to freedom (1993), where they released Przewalski horses that should be living wild, The Private Life of Plants (1995), which used time-lapse photography (placing out a camera that takes a picture every five minutes and then make it a film.) to explore the botanical world, Attenborough in Paradise (1996), about his personal-favorite animals, paradise birds, and the series The Life of Birds (1998), for which he won a Peabody Award. He has also narrated a lot of other programs, including BBC’s Wildlife on One, which was 250 episodes from 1977 to 2005, and the 2006 series Planet Earth, the biggest wildlife documentary ever made and the first show to air in High Definition on BBC.

Preserving Our Ecology

His age has done very little to slow the fearless Attenborough, who into his 80s has continued his globetrotting. Completing his Life trilogy, his series Life in Cold Blood (2008), an examination of reptiles was sent on BBC. In 2012, he began a series of programs filmed in 3-D for the Sky television network. Attenborough’s lifelong engagement to the natural world has also led him toward ecological activism both on television and offscreen. He wrote and produced the environmentally themed State of the Planet (2000) and Saving Planet Earth (2007). He is a guardian of the organizations Population Matters, which examines the impact of human population growth on the natural world, and the World Land Trust, which buys rainforests around the world with the goal of preserving the wildlife.

During his lifetime of achievement, Attenborough has received countless honors. He was knighted in 1985, received the Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 and has at least 31 honorary degrees from British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. He published his biography, Life on Air, in 2002, and in 2012, he was the subject of the BBC documentary Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild. In 2014, a voting revealed that he was considered to be the most trustworthy man in Britain. Attenborough is also the most traveled person in human history and is the oldest person to ever have visited the North Pole. But in perhaps the most fitting tribute of all, several species of plants, insects and birds have been named after Attenborough, ensuring that it will live alongside the many creatures that he has spent his life protecting.


In 1950, Attenborough married Jane Oriel, the couple staying together until her death in 1997 from a brain hemorrhage. The pair had two children together: a son, Robert, and a daughter, Susan.

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