David Attenborough Biography

Sir David Attenborough is an English broadcaster and naturalist. This biography offers detailed information about his childhood, life, works, achievements, trivia and timeline.

David Attenborough
Quick Facts

Birthday: May 8, 1926

Nationality: British

Famous: Miscellaneous British Men

Age: 93 Years, 93 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Taurus

Also Known As: David Frederick Attenborough, Sir David Attenborough, Sir David Attenborough CBE, Sir David Frederick Attenborough

Born in: Isleworth

Famous as: Broadcaster, Naturalist

Height: 1.78 m


Spouse/Ex-: Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Orie

father: Frederick Attenborough

mother: Mary Attenborough

siblings: Helga Bejach, Irene Bejach, John Attenborough, Richard Attenborough

children: Robert Attenborough, Susan Attenborough

Ideology: Environmentalists

More Facts

education: University of Cambridge, Clare College, Cambridge, University College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College

awards: 1970 - BAFTA Desmond Davis Award
1974 - Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
1980 - BAFTA Fellowship

1983 - Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
1985 - Knighthood
1991 - Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
1991 - Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1996 - Companion of Honour (CH) for services to nature broadcasting
1998 - International Cosmos Prize
2003 - Michael Faraday Prize awarded by the Royal Society
2004 - Descartes Prize for Outstanding Science Communication Actions
2004 - Caird Medal of the National Maritime Museum
2005 - Order of Merit
2005 - Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest
2006 - National Television Awards Special Recognition Award
2006 - Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
2006 - The Culture Show British Icon Award
2007 - British Naturalists' Association Peter Scott Memorial Award
2009 - Prince of Asturias Award
2010 - Fonseca Prize
2010 - Queensland Museum Medal
2011 - Society for the History of Natural History Founders' Medal
2011 - Association for International Broadcasting AIB International TV Personality of the year
2012 - IUCN Phillips Memorial Medal for outstanding service in international conservation
- RSPB Medal

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For six decades now, David Attenborough has been the voice of natural history programmes around the world. His contributions in broadcasting and wildlife film-making are unparalleled. His penchant for taking on new projects and turning them into universally acclaimed broadcasts is what makes him a legend in his field. Even his most vehement critics cite his programmes as the epitome of public service broadcasting. He is the first known broadcaster to have treated this subjects with a great deal of sincerity, researched latest discoveries, gained the trust of the scientific community, introduced innovative shots, focused on events, and consciously restricted his on-screen presence. Such is the impact of his wildlife series that he has been hailed as ‘the great communicator’ and ‘the peerless educator’. However, he has received criticism about presenting a very false picture of idyllic wilderness, which draws attention away from the threat of encroachment that humans pose on wild flora and fauna. He cites overpopulation and creationism as the primary causes of environmental problems and the decline of wild life diversity.

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David Attenborough
Childhood & Early Life
  • David Attenborough was born on May 8, 1926 to Frederick Attenborough, the Principal of the University College, Leicester. At a young age, he became interested in collecting fossils, stones and natural specimens.
  • He was educated at the Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys. In 1945, he won a scholarship to Clare College of Cambridge University from which he 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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  • After his stint in the Navy, he joined the BBC in 1952 and subsequently became a producer for the Talks department - his earliest projects included Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? and Song Hunter.
  • A three-part series ‘The Pattern of Animals’ led to a series about an animal-collecting expedition. Zoo Quest was first broadcast in 1954 and became the first of his many BBC Natural History Unit’s productions.
  • Following the establishment of the BBC Natural History Unit in 1957, he formed the Travel and Exploration Unit, to help him front Zoo Quest as well as Travellers' Tales and Adventure series.
  • In the early 1960s, he resigned from the BBC to study social anthropology at the London School of Economics, but returned to the BBC as controller of BBC Two.
  • In 1965, he became the controller of BBC Two; he included music, arts, entertainment, archaeology, experimental comedy, travel, drama, sport, business, science and natural history in the schedule.
  • In 1967, when BBC Two began its color broadcast, he introduced televised snooker and the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy to Television.
  • In 1969, he was promoted as director of programmes responsible for the output of both BBC channels, but quit to answer the call to return to his first love—broadcasting.
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  • In 1975, he presented The Tribal Eye, The Explorers and Fabulous Animal. A year later, the BBC signed a co-production deal with Turner Broadcasting to move ‘Life on Earth’ into production.
  • ’Life on Earth’ and ‘The Living Planet’, broadcast in the 70s, was researched and broadcast using computer technology, thereby etching his name in broadcasting history and generating huge international sales for the BBC.
  • In the early 1990s, he presented Life in the Freezer and The Private Life of Plants. The latter used time-lapse photography to show dynamic, speeded-up growth in plants.
  • The Life of Mammals, broadcast in 2002 used low-light and infrared cameras to reveal the behaviour of nocturnal mammals. Life in Undergrowth exploited macro photography to capture natural behaviour of very small creatures.
  • Life in Cold Blood, broadcast in 2008, completed his collection of programmes on all the major groups of terrestrial animals and plants by showcasing reptiles and amphibians.
  • He is now working on 3D documentaries for Sky 3D, a two-part series on the origins of vertebrates, and a return to Eden for a second series.
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Major Works
  • The ‘Life’ series, begun in 1979, forms a comprehensive survey of all life on the planet - the 96 natural history programmes written, presented, narrated and produced are immeasurable in terms of sales or impact.
  • He narrated every episode of Wildlife on One, a BBC One wildlife series which ran for 253 episodes between 1977 and 2005. At its peak, it drew a weekly audience of eight to ten million.
  • Life on Air, his autobiography, was published in 2002 and is one of a number of his works which is available as a self-narrated audiobook.
  • He has also contributed forewords and introductions to Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Africa and other BBC series he has narrated.
Awards & Achievements
  • In addition to honorary Doctor of Science awards from the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford, he is the recipient of 31 honorary degrees from various British universities.
  • A 2002 BBC poll named him among the 100 Greatest Britons. He is also the top ten "Heroes of Our Time" according to New Statesman magazine.
  • A 2006 Reader’s Digest Poll named him the most trusted celebrity in Britain. The following year he won The Culture Show's Living Icon Award.
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  • In the 1970s he won the BAFTA Desmond Davis Award, the Royal Geographical Society's Cherry Kearton Medal and Award and was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
  • In the 1980s, he received a BAFTA Fellowship and a Knighthood and was named a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).
  • In the 1990s, he was awarded the Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) for producing Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas broadcast for a number of years.
  • Some of the distinguished awards he received in the 2000s are Michael Faraday Prize awarded by the Royal Society the Descartes Prize for Outstanding Science Communication Actions, and the Order of Merit (OM).
Personal Life & Legacy
  • His brothers are the actor Richard Attenborough, and John who is an executive at Alfa Romeo. He also has two adoptive sisters.
  • In 1950, he married Jane Elizabeth EbsworthOriel; the couple had two children, Robert and Susan. Nothing much is known of his personal life.
  • In 2005 and 2006, he backed a BirdLife International project to stop the killing of albatross by longline fishing boats, and gave public support to WWF's campaign for Borneo's rainforest.
  • He is the vice-president of BTCV, vice-president of Fauna and Flora International, president of Butterfly Conservation and president of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.
  • A lifelong supporter of the BBC, he has often lent his support to issues related to public broadcasting and the television licence.
  • Computerised airline schedules enabled this acclaimed broadcaster to visit several locations around the globe in each episode, sometimes even changing continents mid-sentence.
  • This broadcaster is the only person to have won a BAFTA in black and white, colour, HD and 3D.

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How To Cite

Article Title
- David Attenborough Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- July 27, 2017

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