Born 8 May 1926, the younger brother of actor Lord Richard Attenborough. He never expressed a wish to act and, instead, studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, graduating in 1947, the year he began his two years National Service in the Royal Navy. In 1952, he joined BBC Television at Alexandra Palace and, in 1954, began his famous "Zoo Quest" series. When not "Zoo Questing", he presented political broadcasts, archaeological quizzes, short stories, gardening and religious programmes. 1964 saw the start of BBC2, Britain's third TV channel, with Michael Peacock as its Controller. A year later, Peacock was promoted to BBC1 and Attenborough became Controller of BBC2. As such, he was responsible for the introduction of colour television into Britain, and also for bringing "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1969) to the world. In 1969, he was appointed Director of Programmes with editorial responsibility for both the BBC's television networks. Eight years behind a desk was too much for him, and he resigned in 1973 to return to programme making. First came "Eastwards with Attenborough", a natural history series set in South East Asia, then "The Tribal Eye", examining tribal art. In 1979, he wrote and presented all 13 parts of "Life on Earth" (1979) (then the most ambitious series ever produced by the BBC Natural History Unit). This became a trilogy, with "The Living Planet" (1984) and "The Trials of Life" (1990).
His services to television were recognised in 1985, and he was knighted to become Sir David Attenborough. The two shorter series, "The First Eden" and "Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives" were fitted around 1993's spectacular "Life in the Freezer" (1993), a celebration of Antarctica and 1995's epic "The Private Life of Plants" (1995), which he wrote and presented. Filming the beautiful birds of paradise for "Attenborough in Paradise" in 1996 fulfilled a lifelong ambition, putting him near his favourite bird. Entering his seventies, he narrated the award-winning "Wildlife Specials" (1997), marking 40 years of the BBC Natural History Unit. But, he was not slowing down, as he completed the epic 10-part series for the BBC, "The Life of Birds" (1998) along with writing and presenting the three-part series "State of the Planet" (2000) as well as "The Life of Mammals" (2002). Once broadcast, he began planning his next projects.
He has received honorary degrees from many universities across the world, and is patron or supporter of many charitable organisations, including acting as Patron of the World Land Trust, which buys rain forest and other lands to preserve them and the animals that live there.
|Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel||(1950 - 1997) (her death) 2 children|
In the mid-sixties became the Controller of BBC2. Later, he became the BBC's Director of Programmes. The British Academy awarded David Attenborough the Desmond Davis Award in 1970, and a Fellowship in 1979.
Brother of actor/director Lord Richard Attenborough and John Attenborough. Also, during World War Two, his parents adopted two German Jewish girls, who had been brought to Britain as part of the Kindertransport.
Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983.
Brother-in-law of Sheila Sim
Filming "The Living Planet" saw his balloon crash land in southern Scotland. When he finally found a farmhouse, the farmer recognised him from the TV, and said he could he use the phone if he wished his wee daughter a happy birthday. When he returned with his young girl he said to her: "This is David. He's come by balloon to wish you a happy birthday." Attenborough said "Happy birthday." The dour farmer replied: "The telephone's over there."
50 years of natural history programme making series has made him the most travelled person in human history, except for astronauts.
As head of BBC-2 he introduced British audiences to colour TV, and gave the go-ahead to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
He was awarded the Order of Merit (OM) by Queen Elizabeth in 2005.
Has a daughter, a son, and several grandchildren.
In addition to his knighthood in 1985 which made him Sir David Attenborough, he was also appointed a CBE in 1974, a CVO in 1991 and a CH in 1996.
Is a fan of Emmylou Harris.
Presented Pentangle with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2007.
Merited a place in Time magazine's Special Issue "Heroes of the Environment" (Leaders & Visionaries section) with a tribute penned by Jeremy Paxman (Issue October 29, 2007).
A patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a group seeking to cut the growth in human population.
For his birthday, one of his sisters gave him a fossilized animal trapped in amber, which later grew into an entire collection of animals in amber. In Jurassic Park (1993), his brother Richard Attenborough grows dinosaurs from mosquitoes trapped in amber.
In 2011, his home became the key to solving a murder from 132 years earlier. In 1879, a widow was killed by her housekeeper and decapitated. She chopped up the body and fed pieces of it to nearby children. The housekeeper was arrested when a severed foot was found, and ultimately convicted and executed for the murders, but her victim's head was never found, until it was discovered buried under the ground of Attenborough's house. Workmen found its remains while excavating for an extension on his home. It turns out his home was located near where Attenborough's house near stands, and the house itself used to be a pub frequented by the murderer.
As far as I'm concerned, if there is a supreme being then He chose organic evolution as a way of bringing into existence the natural world . . . which doesn't seem to me to be necessarily blasphemous at all.
[speaking in 2007] Some scientists suggest that up to a quarter of animal species could be extinct by 2050. But it's not too late - you can be involved in saving planet Earth. If you are a child, this is your future. If you're a parent, it's your legacy. The time to act is now.
Steve Irwin did wonderful conservation work but I was uncomfortable about some of his stunts. Even if animals aren't aware that you are not treating them with respect, the viewers are.
I had a huge advantage when I started 50 years ago - my job was secure. I didn't have to promote myself. These days there's far more pressure to make a mark, so the temptation is to make adventure television or personality shows. I hope the more didactic approach won't be lost.
It is vital that there is a narrator figure whom people believe. That's why I never do commercials. If I started saying that margarine was the same as motherhood, people would think I was a liar.
There are moments when I wonder - moments when its (the BBC's) two senior networks, first set up as a partnership, schedule simultaneously programmes of identical character, thereby contradicting the very reason that the BBC was given a second network.
Unless there are regulations to stop it, public service broadcasting programmes will inevitably be pushed out of peak hours and into out-of-the-way corners of the schedule when fewer people will want to watch them. So the odds are stacked against them increasing their audience. They become the station's pariah, retained under sufferance, tucked away, unloved, where they do least harm to the network's income.
Public service broadcasting, watched by a healthy number of viewers, with programmes financed in proportion to their intrinsic needs and not the size of the audience, can only effectively operate as a network. A network whose aim is to cater for the broadest possible range of interests, popular as well as less popular, a network that measures success not only by its audience size but by the range of its schedule.
There are times when BBC1 and BBC2, intoxicated by the sudden popularity of a programme genre, have allowed that genre to proliferate and run rampant through the schedules, with the result that other kinds of programmes are not placed - simply because of lack of space. Do we really require so many gardening programmes, makeover programmes, or celebrity chefs? Is it not a scandal, in this day and age, that that there seems to be no place for continuing series of programmes about science or serious music or thoughtful in-depth interviews with people other than politicians? (Speaking in 2008)
Public service broadcasting is one of the things that distinguishes this country and makes me want to live here. I have spent all my life in it. I would be very distressed if public service broadcasting was weakened. I have been at the BBC since 1952 and know the BBC is constantly being battered. It is today.
If you could demonstrate that the BBC was grossly extravagant there might be a case for saying OK take it away. But in fact the BBC per minute in almost every category is as cheap as you can find anywhere in the world and produces the best quality. If you take the money away, which part of the BBC will you remove? The BBC has gone through swingeing staff cuts. It has been cut to the bone, if you divert licence fee money elsewhere, you cut quality and services. There is always that threat from politicians who will say your licence fee is up for grabs. We will take it. There is a lot of people who want to see the BBC weakened. They talk of this terrible tax of the licence fee. Yet it is the best bargain that is going. Four radio channels and god knows how many TV channels. It is piffling.
The statutory requirement that a certain percentage of programmes must come from independent producers has reduced in-house production and the Units necessarily shrank proportionately in size. As they dwindled, so the critical mass of their production expertise has diminished. The continuity of their archives has been broken, they have lost the close touch they once had worldwide with their subjects and they are no longer regarded internationally as the centres of innovation and expertise that they once were. (On the BBC's in-house departments)
Whatever you do, it's difficult if you are on the edge of taste - you'll always offend someone. You'll also offend some people if you retreat to being so careful with everything that you say that you become Mrs Goody-two-shoes. People in their twenties today talk like Jonathan Ross and the question is how much do they do that in front of other sections of society. Jonathan Ross has a very difficult problem.
Jonathan Ross speaks to a certain element who think he's very funny, and I guess he is. He's on the edge of a very dangerous line and it's not an easy job. He has to keep close to the boundary, but not step over it. What you need, in order to do that, is to have a producer in whom you have confidence, who will pull you back if it's pre-recorded and then cut it out.
There have always been politicians or business people who have wanted to cut the BBC back or stop it saying the sort of things it says. There's always been trouble about the licence and if you dropped your guard you could bet our bottom dollar there'd be plenty of people who'd want to take it away. The licence fee is the basis on which the BBC is based and if you destroy it, broadcasting becomes a wasteland.
It never really occurred to me to believe in God - and I had nothing to rebel against, my parents told me nothing whatsoever. But I do remember looking at my headmaster delivering a sermon, a classicist, extremely clever... and thinking, he can't really believe all that, can he? How incredible!
It's like saying that two and two equals four but, if you wish it, it could also be five. This is one of the errors. Evolution is not a theory. It is a fact, every bit as much as the historical fact that William the Conqueror landed in 1066. Indeed, more so, because all we have to tell us about William are a few bits of paper here or there - not very much at all. For evolution we have much more evidence: palaeontology, embryology, biology, geology. Darwin revolutionised the way we see the world fundamentally, but his basic proposition is still not taken on board by a lot of people. (On the teaching of creationism in British schools)
They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator. (Responding to religious viewers who criticise him for not crediting God in his nature programmes)
There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than any other animal I know.
I think it's in great trouble. The whole system on which it was built - a limited number of networks, with adequate funding - is under threat. That funding is no longer there. As stations proliferate, so audiences are reduced. The struggle for audiences becomes ever greater, while money diminishes. I think that's a fair recipe for trouble. (On television in 2009)
We don't seem to be acting very quickly. I'm sure things are going to get worse before they get better, if they get better. They won't get better in my lifetime. I don't think they'll get better for 50 to 100 years. I hope they won't get too much worse, but I fear they certainly will. (On climate change)
People believe what they wish to believe. There are some people who think the written word is more likely to be an avenue to the truth than the material world that we can examine. I might not share that belief. People tell me that they believe God created the world in seven days, and I say: 'On what evidence?' They say: 'Well, because it says so in the Book of Genesis.' There's nothing I can do to disprove that because that's what they believe is the incontrovertible truth.
I've always found fossils very interesting. I also had newts and grass snakes and frogs which I kept in various aquaria when I was a boy. I spent a lot of time in the garden exploring.
My shoes are very unfashionable shoes. I'm the last in a particular style that was established 30 years ago. People make different kinds of programmes now. I don't think anyone's trying to fill my shoes.
I think 3D TV is going to be event TV. It can be an international football match or it can also be an important programme. But I don't think 3D is going to be much good on trivia. It's for programmes that really mean something. It does require your attention.
When I started in 1952, people had television sets and thought it was a miracle. You sat in front of it and waited for it to start and watched all the way through to the end and it was an event. But within a decade, you ate and talked and knitted while it was on. Then colour came about and once again it was an event, people would come round and said, 'Wow, look at the colour'. Then we got accustomed to colour and television became like wallpaper. I don't think 3D can be used as wallpaper, particularly because you need the glasses and when you put them on it's very isolating. You become very unaware of the person next to you.
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