Whatever age, wherever you come from, you will have probably heard of Sir David Attenborough. And so you should have. His hard work over the years has helped to teach people about the natural world and all of its wonders.
The 89-year old is a household name to many and I, for one have had great enjoyment from watching him film all over the world, which is why I have chosen to dedicate this ‘Biography of the Week’ to him. My inspiration for this piece comes from watching David give a lecture at the University of Leicester recently. When I heard he would be visiting I jumped at the chance to attend. The lecture itself revolved around the idea that animals can in fact identify what beauty is.
David Attenborough was born on 8 May 1926 in Isleworth, London but grew up in the grounds of University College Leicester, as his father was principal. During his recent lecture he recalled some fond moments he had as a child in the city, telling the audience stories about his family. He also expressed how much had changed since he had visited and suggested that the university is ‘exactly as a 21st century university should be, as it is part of the community.’
Life and times
David was educated in Leicester at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys and in 1945 was given a scholarship to Clare College in Cambridge where he studied geology and zoology, gaining a degree in natural sciences. He was then called up for national service in 1947 in which he spent two years in the Navy. David was the middle of three sons to his parents Mary Attenborough and Frederick Attenborough. Whilst his father was principal of the college, his mother was founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council.
His eldest brother, Richard Attenborough CBE was an extremely famous actor. He was also known for directing and producing films such as Ghandi, which won two Academy Awards. Richard sadly passed away in 2014 at the age of 90.
David’s younger brother, John Attenborough, was head of British operations for Italian car manufacture, Alfa Romeo. John, who had progressive supranuclear palsy, died in 2012. It is safe to say that the Attenborough family were, and still remain to be extremely well driven and passionate about their work.
David married to Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel in 1950, which he then went on to have two children, Robert and Susan, with. His son Robert now lives in Australia and is a senior lecturer in bio anthropology for the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Teaching the world about itself
Fresh out of the Navy, David took a job at a publishing company before being spotted by Mary Adams, who was the head of the Talks department of the BBC. She offered him a three-month training course, which then led to him joining the broadcaster full-time.
He worked with the BBC until the early 1960s when he left to study a postgraduate degree in social anthropology at the London School of Economics. Then in 1965 he returned to the BBC again to become controller of BBC Two. After several years in the role, Attenborough resigned to continue with broadcasting, filming shows such as ‘Life on Earth’, ‘The Tribal Eye’ and ‘The Explorers.’
His most recent work includes documentaries ‘Attenborough’s Paradise Birds’ and a special three-part show of him revisiting The Great Barrier Reef.
As genuine as always, when David was recently asked about retirement he replied: ‘If I was earning my money by hewing coal I would be very glad indeed to stop. But I’m not. I’m swanning round the world looking at the most fabulous interesting things. Such good fortune.’