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David Attenborough

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian.

He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection that together constitute a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.

He is 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.

He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K. In 2018 and 2019, he received Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Narrator.

  • Born: 8 May 1926 (age 93 years), Isleworth
  • Full name: David Frederick Attenborough

About Sir David Attenborough

Attenborough was born in Isleworth, Middlesex (now part of west London), and grew up in College House on the campus of the University College, Leicester, where his father, Frederick, was principal.

He is the middle of three long-lived sons; his elder brother, Richard, became an actor and director who died in 2014, and his younger brother, John, was an executive at Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo who died in 2012.

During the Second World War, through a British volunteer network known as the Refugee Children’s Movement, his parents also fostered two Jewish refugee girls from Europe.

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Attenborough spent his childhood collecting fossils, stones, and natural specimens. He received encouragement aged seven, when a young Jacquetta Hawkes admired his “museum”.

He also spent much time in the grounds of the university, and, aged 11, he heard that the zoology department needed a large supply of newts, which he offered through his father to supply for 3d each.

The source, which he did not reveal at the time, was a pond less than five metres from the department.

A few years later, one of his adoptive sisters gave him a piece of amber containing prehistoric creatures; some fifty years later, it would be the focus of his programme The Amber Time Machine.

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In 1936, Attenborough and his brother Richard attended a lecture by Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney) at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, and were influenced by his advocacy of conservation.

According to Richard, David was “bowled over by the man’s determination to save the beaver, by his profound knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Canadian wilderness and by his warnings of ecological disaster should the delicate balance between them be destroyed.

The idea that mankind was endangering nature by recklessly despoiling and plundering its riches was unheard of at the time, but it is one that has remained part of Dave’s own credo to this day.” In 1999, Richard directed a biopic of Belaney entitled Grey Owl.

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Attenborough was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys in Leicester and then won a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge in 1945, where he studied geology and zoology and obtained a degree in natural sciences.

In 1947, he was called up for national service in the Royal Navy and spent two years stationed in North Wales and the Firth of Forth.

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In 1950, Attenborough married Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel; she died in 1997. The couple had two children, Robert and Susan.

Robert is a senior lecturer in bioanthropology for the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra. Susan is a former primary school headmistress.