David Attenborough (1926 – ) is one of the most widely respected TV broadcasters and has become known as the face and voice of natural history documentaries. His career in broadcasting has stretched over more than a half a century from 1952. David is the younger brother of actor, Richard Attenborough.
David was brought up in Leicester and went to Clare College, Cambridge to study Natural Sciences; after graduating in 1947, he was called up for two years national service in the Navy.
On leaving the navy, he briefly worked as an editor for a children’s book for a publishing company. However, in 1950 he applied to the BBC for a job. Initially, he was rejected, but his CV remained on file and shortly afterwards was given a three months training schedule to work as a BBC broadcaster. He proved to be a good worker and quickly progressed through the ranks of fledgeling BBC TV service. He became in charge of all non-fiction broadcasts and was soon associated with various natural history programmes such as The Pattern of Animals and Zoo Quest.
From 1965 to 1969 Attenborough was the controller of BBC2. He initiated a wide range of programmes including live Snooker, Match of the Day, the Likely Lads and Mastermind. David later said he felt BBC2 should maintain a good range of diversity.
However, David Attenborough is remembered primarily for his natural history series that he wrote and produced. These used ground breaking filming techniques and his ease of presentation made the material very accessible and of interest to a new generation of viewers. His major series included:
- Life on Earth (1979),
- The Living Planet (1984)
- The Trials of Life (1990).
- Life in the Freezer (about Antarctica; 1993),
- The Private Life of Plants (1995),
- The Life of Birds (1998),
- The Life of Mammals (2002),
- Life in the Undergrowth (2005)
- The Blue Planet (2001)
- The Blue Planet II (2017)
- Seven Worlds One Planet (2019)
He also narrated over 250 programmes of Wildlife on One.
The key to David’s appeal is his ability to share his genuine enthusiasm and love for wildlife. His distinctive and calming voice has become synonymous with wildlife broadcasting. Interestingly a reader’s survey of Readers’ Digest found that David Attenborough was the most trusted of British celebrities.
David Attenborough and Environmental Issues
In recent years David has become increasingly outspoken on issues such as environmental damage, global warming and extinction of particular species. He has stated that human overpopulation and global warming (caused by human activity) are the root cause of much of the world’s growing environmental problems. He has lent his voice to organisations such as WWF in their fight to protect certain species and campaign for wildlife. In the last episode of “State of the Planet”, he summed up his feelings with this statement.
“The future of life on earth depends on our ability to take action. Many individuals are doing what they can, but real success can only come if there’s a change in our societies and our economics and in our politics. I’ve been lucky in my lifetime to see some of the greatest spectacles that the natural world has to offer. Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species.”
In the BBC series Blue Planet II, he narrated the case of 700 plastic ducks lost at sea in 1992, and which continue to float around the world. This played a major role in highlighting the influence of plastic pollution in the world and his raising of issue, played a role in galvanising a global change in attitudes to plastic.
David has expressed the view that he is agnostic. He is critical of the teaching of creationism and believes evolution should play a greater role.
David married Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel in 1950, she died in 1997. He has two children.
David Attenborough – Life on Air
- David Attenborough – Life on Air at Amazon
Great Briton list – Top 100 famous Britons as voted by a BBC poll. Including Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Thomas Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth I.