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David Attenborough | Naturalist and Broadcaster

Updated on October 20, 2014

Wildlife Writer and Presenter is a National Treasure

Sir David Frederick Attenborough was born on 8th May 1926 and is best known the world over as an English writer, broadcaster and naturalist.

Many of us are used to hearing his gentle, authoritative voice which accompanies the numerous successful BBC wildlife documentaries that he's presented over the past 60 years. Many of the natural history programmes have been produced by the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol in England, and it is they who have been responsible for some of the most stunningly beautiful nature documentaries ever to be shown on television. However, it's the knowledgeable and professional writer/presenter whose experience has made them a worldwide success.

The BBC has generated huge international sales through all of Attenborough's documentaries, and he's now considered a national treasure in Britain being named among the 100 Greatest Britons of all time. Let's take a look at the work of this remarkable man.

"Being in touch with nature is crucial."


Image: David Attenborough, New Life Stories

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Created on 5 Jun 2013

Some of the Amazing Documentaries

Natural History Made Interesting

By a knowledgeable presenter

David Attenborough has been involved in natural history for over 60 years. In the 1960's and 70's, he was the controller of BBC Two television and then became director of programming for the BBC network.

He spent a lot of his childhood collecting all sorts of natural specimens including fossils and stones, and in 1945 he obtained a degree in natural sciences from Clare College in Cambridge after studying geology and zoology.

After he left the BBC, clearly wanting to get out of the bureaucracy side of television, he became a freelance broadcaster. This is when he really got stuck in to what he loved the most, that of getting out into the field and discovering more about our natural world.

In 1979, he began his first major work on Life On Earth in which he wrote all the scripts, this was a vast undertaking and required the BBC to partner with Turner Broadcasting in America to secure the required funding.

This series set a new benchmark of quality and innovation for wildlife film-makers to aspire to. Along with his production team, Attenborough gained the trust of those in the scientific world, and this would create new openings for them in years to come.

From now on the world was literally at his feet!

My First Taste of the LIFE Series

'Life on Earth'

I'll never forget the first television showing of Life on Earth in 1979 in which Attenborough produced his first expansive piece of work. The result was a breathtaking series of high quality wildlife film-making in which the viewer was taken to places never seen before - and in glorious color (color TV was still relatively new in many homes). This was what we wanted to see, and be educated at the same time, and Attenborough certainly knew how to do it by drawing on his vast naturalist know-how.

Just before the Life series aired, another very popular BBC series had been The Ascent of Man presented by Jacob Bronowski, which incidentally was commissioned by David Attenborough. This proved to be a fantastic hit and set the trend for what was to follow, with these huge projects traveling to film in locations all over the world,

the greatest broadcaster of our time

Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster

Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster
Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster

There are few reviews that are as consistently high as those on David Attenborough's work. I have watched his TV documentaries for so many years and have always found them to be unrivalled in their quality and presentation.

This highly readable book keeps up that tradition, so if you enjoy nature and wildlife, you won't find a better person to supply you with the information.

I highly recommend it.


Ever Heard of David Attenborough?

Have You Heard of David Attenborough Before?

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Gorillas With David Attenborough (BBC)

There is so much moving footage here as David Attenborough's film crew relive their experiences of filming the mountain gorillas in Rwanda with the help of American zoologist Dian Fossey.

Dian had invited the BBC to document the gorillas in their natural habitat so long as the film-makers promised to promote awareness of their plight in the war torn country.

This video is tremendously moving and shows original footage of gorilla interaction with humans, most notably that of Dian Fossey herself and David Attenborough while shooting the programme. The film Gorillas in the Mist starring Sigourney Weaver and Bryan Brown was an international hit at the box office and generated more valuable public awareness.

If you don't know about the problems of Rwanda and the mountain gorillas, I urge you to make a little time and watch this - you'll be glad you did!

Success Ensured Follow-Up Documentaries

Viewers wanted more!

Due to the sheer success and popularity of Life on Earth it was no wonder that the BBC wanted a follow-up.

For this next challenge Attenborough set his theme as ecology, and over the next five years worked tirelessly to complete The Living Planet. Once again, it was a huge success, and continued to earn well for the BBC. There's no question that the partnership of the BBC, Attenborough and the Natural History Unit was a winning team - and the public just wanted more and more...

...and they got it...

Next came The Trials of Life which concentrated on animal behavior through the various stages of life. This was the series that received many strong reactions from the public for the sequences on a beach in Patagonia where killer whales hunted sea lions and chimpanzees went hunting a colobus monkey before violently killing it.

Books on Natural History

Natural History (Smithsonian)
Natural History (Smithsonian)

The DK science books have set such a high standard, and this one is no exception. The design and photography are superb, it's a joy to read and have as a reference book. With clear overviews of more than 6,000 species classifications in the world of Natural History, I can't recommend it enough!

Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library
Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library

Enjoy glimpses of rarely seen work from the Natural History world accompanied by 40 beautiful rare illustrations (which in themselves could each be framed). This deluxe edition will fascinate enthusiasts of natural science and art alike.


Did You Have a Favorite?

What Was Your Favorite David Attemborough Documentary?

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Attenborough 60 Years in the Wild

Attenborough 60 Years in the Wild [Blu-ray]
Attenborough 60 Years in the Wild [Blu-ray]

In this documentary, David Attenborough takes us back to the beginning of his career, and talks about encounters with professors and scientists that have influenced him and his work.

This is a fascinating insight into 60 years of film-making, and as always the animals or plants take center stage.

Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild on Wikipedia


We Must Look After Our Planet

We need to do more!

From David Attenborough's point of view, there is no question who comes first on this planet in order of importance, and it's not us humans - and rightly so! What have we done that has been good for our natural world as a whole? Not a lot.

Animal Parts and also Chinese Medicine

We want jewelry made from ivory - so we kill elephants and rhinosWe want aphrodisiacs made from tiger (and other animal) partsMonkey heads are eaten to help cure headachesTo help with acne elephant skin is takenSnake glands are thought to be good for the eyes......and the list goes on and on...

We just WANT, WANT

But we must give back in return!

It's all want and greed, we cut and burn the valuable rainforests, extract oil and gases from the earth, trash our environment without a care - and do we do it for nature or the animals, heck no, for us! Will we ever learn that we are mere custodians during our short time on Earth? The sad part is that we'll be passing on this polluted mess and its related problems to our children.

Why can't or won't we do more? It all starts at home with a bit of recycling here and energy saving there. But no, we're all so lazy and selfish, and reckon that it's someone else's problem. We blame the multinational organizations as they are better placed to do so much more, but do they? No... they won't as it will cost them and their shareholders millions of dollars, and they can't have that, can they? WANT and GREED.

Image credit:

Man or Evolution?

Do You Think That Man or Evolution Is Changing Our World Most?

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David Attenborough's Legacy - More than he realizes himself!

1998, With Eagles from The Frozen Planet

For more than 60 years in the wilderness, David Attenborough has left a wonderful legacy to the natural world. He has gripped his audiences for decades as he investigates the whales, polar bears and gorillas, but he has done so much more in helping to make the natural sciences more accessible.

He has written more than two-dozen books, a few musicals, as well as the numerous popular natural history documentaries that he wrote and presented. Having started out from a small studio in London he broadcast the Zoo Quest series, in which he traveled to various parts of the world on animal collecting expeditions.

In 1985, he received a knighthood, followed by many awards, titles and recognitions. It's not difficult to see why he's so revered, he makes his programmes interesting, not only for adults but also for children. His gentle narration grips the viewer without overloading them with information, and he allows the images to tell the story.

It is through Attenborough's work that our awareness of global issues, such as climate change, extinction and conservation has grown. He doesn't dictate his philosophy but merely puts forward his points of view. In relation to Africa, it's people and animals he say that they must choose their own destiny rather than the rest of the world thrusting other views onto them.

Africa must decide what to do for itself

Background image from The Frozen Planet

the great communicator, the peerless educator

David Attenborough - Wonderful World - BBC - Do watch this - you'll be glad you did!

Have You Any Environmental Issues or Just Say Hi? - Thanks for your visit

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    • MelaniePaige13 profile image

      Melanie Paige 4 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Amazing lens! I've watched a few of his documentaries on TV and loved them. It's disgusting how humans are destroying this beautiful Earth all because of greed. Why can't they just stop and think about what they're doing? But, as long as there's money to be earned, humans will kill and destroy our home planet, and that's sad. Thank you for sharing this inspiring lens on an inspirational man.

    • hovirag profile image

      hovirag 4 years ago

      @anonymous: totally agree with you!

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      I'm devastated! I was about to start this week's rocket squid challenge with my own super hero lens on David Attenborough and thought I'd look at the giant squid examples. What do I find?? Noooooooooooo!!!! Lovely lens though .... shame it's not mine :(

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      David Attenborough went to school just a few hundred yards from where I live now. I still find this fact amazing and bore any visitors with it!

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Great lens. Love his voice and the work he does. David Attenborough is amazing!

    • rebecca-mathews1 profile image

      rebecca-mathews1 4 years ago

      wow this is a great lens I really love all the documentaries. I love nature films and things on the planet and what lives here. thanks so much for sharing your lens

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      He's also my hero! What an incredible, passionate man that's made a huge difference to this planet. I admit that any time I watch a documentary and don't hear Attenborough's familiar voice I assume the film won't be very good :)

    • Stuwaha profile image

      Stuwaha 4 years ago

      Lovely page. Sir David Attenborough is an amazing man whose various accomplishments are truly astounding and awe inspiring. Life In The Undergrowth is my favorite documentary series ever :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very well written article about an interesting man. Thanks for sharing!