David Attenborough 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 since 1952.
He is best known for writing and presenting the nine Life series, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, which collectively form a comprehensive survey of all life on the planet. He is also a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s.
Attenborough is a younger brother of director, producer and actor Richard Attenborough.
David Attenborough was brought up in Leicester and went to Clare College, Cambridge to study Natural Sciences; after graduating in 1947, he was called up for 2 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 3 months training schedule to work as a BBC broadcaster. He proved to be a good worker and quickly progressed through the ranks of the fledgling 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 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)
- 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 have become synonymous with wildlife broadcasting. Interestingly a reader’s survey of Readers’ Digest found that David Attenborough was the most trusted of British celebrities.
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.”