May. 8th, 1926
London, England, UK
Guest TV Roles
Himself - Presenter
Himself - Naturalist (segment "Spy on Ice")
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 (II) 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 "Living Planet, The" (1984) and "Trials of Life, The" (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 "Private Life of Plants, The" 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) (V)_ 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.
- One of his favourite pieces of music is 'Giuseppe Verdi' (qv)'s Requiem.
- Has a daughter, a son, and several grandchildren.
- 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.
- A patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a group seeking to cut the growth in human population.
- Brother of actor/director Lord 'Richard Attenborough' (qv) 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.
- (16 December 2006) Won the title of Greatest Living British Icon, voted for by viewers of BBC Two's The Culture Show, beating singers Sir 'Paul McCartney' (qv) and Morrissey ('Steven Patrick Morrissey' (qv)).
- He was awarded the Order of Merit (OM) by Queen Elizabeth in 2005.
- A fan of the music of 'Gustav Mahler' (qv).
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