David Attenborough 

Sir David Attenborough is a celebrated English broadcaster and naturalist who’s television career began in 1952 when he accepted a job with the BBC. David was born in London, England, in 1926. He studied the natural sciences at the University of Cambridge and then began his career as a producer at the BBC, where his first success was the launch of the successful Zoo Quest series in 1954. Attenborough was made controller of BBC Two in 1965 and later its director of programming. During his tenure the station crossed over to color television, and Attenborough was instrumental in expanding its natural history content. Attenborough left the BBC to begin writing and producing various series, including the smash hit Life on Earth, which set the standards for the modern nature documentary. Since then Attenborough has written, produced, hosted and narrated countless award-winning nature-focused programs and has devoted his life to celebrating and preserving wildlife.

Attenborough first developed the idea of filming animals in the wild when he met Jack Lester, a curator at London Zoo. Expeditions to collect creatures were a common way for zoos to acquire exhibits at that time, so they proposed an animal gathering excursion that Attenborough could record on film. For the first two series of ‘Zoo Quest’, the animals were collected by Jack Lester. When Lester fell ill, Attenborough found himself responsible for the job instead, something with which he was not entirely comfortable. Nevertheless David soon settled into his assumed role and over the years became one of the most recognisable and well loved English broadcasters.

Way back in the 50s, David Attenborough started filming with equipment which is positively antiquated by today’s standards – he could only film 2 minutes, 40 seconds before the film needed to be changed. On the positive side, he had almost a whole world full of unfilmed natural history to choose from. And he chose a lot of it – Sierra Leone, British Guinea, the Zambesi, Borneo, Mali, Peru, Madagascar.

His first series, Zoo Quest, was produced with the BBC from 1954-1964. By the time he started shooting one of his most recent series – Life on Earth, film technology had improved beyond all imagination. However, it still took three years to get the footage and tell the stories which made the series so compelling.

Technically, David Attenborough is not a scientist, but he has contributed enormously to our knowledge of science – species have been discovered, animal behaviour observed, plant growth watched, everything from crocodiles fighting lions to the path of a moth’s flight. In addition to being spectacular, the footage shot by David has been immensely useful to scientists. In the 50s, he managed to film lemurs in the wild – at the time scientists were basing their research on stuffed specimens dragged back from Madagascar.

Another time, David managed to film the modus operandi of a bug that preys on termites. This sly bug would grab a dead termite in its jaw, and bait the other termites with it – live termites will remove a dead termite and discard it. When the live termite grabbed on to the dead one, bamm, the sly bug had it! The scientist involved was delighted – he had never seen this before.

Through books, videos and films, David Attenborough has communicated with people in over 50 countries about the wonders of the natural world. What we love the most about his work is the way he draws you into the complexity of the creatures or plants he is filming – into their secret lives! His own amazement and fascination of the natural world has infused his work, and he has undoubtedly been an inspiration to many.

Whilst we appreciate some will love the natural world more than others we believe anyone can draw upon some key lessons from Sir David Attenborough’s success. It is simple, at a time when the career he has subsequently carved for himself would not have been a recognised path, he has chosen to do what he enjoys, what he loves and what he is inspired by. This passion has enabled him to almost single handled evolve the niche industry within which he works and ultimately become a figure head for the natural world. Today we will have all from time to time enjoyed a nature program but few will recognise the significance of David’s work within this arena, the fact that much of what he has achieved allows us to witness the wonders of the natural world from the comfort of our own home is truly remarkable. This is something that will not doubt go a long way to ensuring future generations seek to protect the natural world and the inspiration it can offer each and every one of us.

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