Sir David Attenborough turns 90
David Attenborough was born in Isleworth, West London, on May, 1926.
He grew up in College House on the campus of the University College, Leicester, where his father, Frederick, was principal. Attenborough spent his childhood collecting fossils, stones and other natural specimens. He received encouragement in this pursuit at age seven, when a young Jacquetta Hawkes admired his “museum”. He also spent a considerable amount of his 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 via his father to supply for 3d a newt. The source, which wasn’t revealed at the time, was a pond less than 5 metres from the department…Clever boy!
In 1936, David 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.”
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.
After leaving the navy he then briefly worked in children’s textbook publishing before applying for a job at the BBC in 1950. His application was initially rejected, but his CV was reviewed shortly afterwards and he was given three months’ training. He once said that if he hadn’t got into television, he might have become a teacher. Like many Britons at the time, Sir David didn’t own a television when he started working at the BBC and had only ever watched one TV programme. He worked on natural history programmes but was discouraged from appearing on camera because he was told his teeth were too big. However, he was asked to step in as a presenter on Zoo Quest in 1954, when the scheduled presenter fell ill.
Did you know that Sir David became controller of BBC Two between 1965 and 1968? During which time he introduced colour television to Britain and commissioned an eclectic mix of programming, including Monty Python’s Flying Circus. However, he politely turned down an application from Sir Terry Wogan to be a BBC presenter. “We do not have any vacancies for anyone with your particular talents and experience,” he told the presenter, pointing out that BBC Two’s chief presenter Denis Tuohy was also from Ireland. “To have had two Irishmen presenting on BBC Two would have looked ridiculous,” Sir David said earlier this year.
What a man, Happy belated Sir David.
Thanks for stopping by,