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David Attenborough 

David Attenborough in a macaroni penguin colony during filming for Life in the Freezer

David Attenborough's broadcasting career began in 1952, when he joined the BBC as a trainee producer. His early work involved producing live studio programmes on a range of non-fiction subjects: from ballet and knitting, to religious programmes and archaeological quizzes.

His first natural history series, The Pattern of Animals, covered camouflage, warnings and signals, and courtship displays and was presented by Sir Julian Huxley. The limited budget of the BBC confined the series to the studio and restricted the animals featured to those of London Zoo. However, as a result of the programme, David met Jack Lester, the curator of London Zoo's reptile house, and the two joined forces to create a series about collecting animals for the Zoo. Zoo Quest allowed the pair to go travelling together to exotic places and combined footage of animals in the wild with live studio sequences. Jack Lester presented the first programme but then became ill and was unable to present the second - David stepped in at the last minute and the rest is history.

After completing the series Travellers' Tales, David Attenborough became more and more interested in social anthropology. So much so, that he decided to devote more of his time to studying the subject at the London School of Economics, although he still managed to work for the BBC while doing his degree.

In 1964 BBC2 was launched, and David Attenborough was invited to become the Controller of the channel when it was less than a year old. He introduced colour broadcasting to Britain in 1967 and shortly after was made the Director of Programmes for both BBC1 and BBC2. However, in 1973 he resigned from management to make a return to programme production with the series Eastwards with Attenborough, set in southeast Asia.

Life on Earth was the first of David's epic Life series, and told the story of the evolution of life on the planet within thirteen 50-minute programmes. At the time, it was the most ambitious series ever produced by the BBC's Natural History Unit. Universally acclaimed by both press and public, it remains to this day the series that David is the most proud of and that has given him most satisfaction. In 1984, The Living Planet was screened, which surveyed the natural world from an ecological point of view and this was followed by the conclusion to the trilogy in 1990 - The Trials of Life, which dealt with animal behaviour.

In addition to these major series, he has also presented, written and narrated many shorter ones and one-offs and has more recently made several series dealing with sections of the natural world: The Private Life of Plants in 1995; The Life of Birds in 1998; The Life of Mammals in 2002; Life in the Undergrowth in 2005; and Life in Cold Blood in 2008.

In 1982, David Attenborough received the Panda Award for Outstanding Achievement at Wildscreen and was knighted for his services to broadcasting in 1985.

Oral History

oral history iconView the oral history of David Attenborough

WildFilmHistory Films

film-smallPanorama: Programme 12 (1955)Interviewee 
film-smallZoo Quest : Zoo Quest to Guiana (1955)Presenter 
film-smallZoo Quest : Zoo Quest for a Dragon: Borneo (1956)Producer 
film-smallZoo Quest : Zoo Quest for the Paradise Birds: Raine Island (1957)Producer 
film-smallZoo Quest : Zoo Quest for the Paradise Birds: The Barrier Reef (1957)Producer 
film-smallZoo Quest : Zoo Quest in Paraguay: Butterfly Birds and Armadillos (1959)Producer 
film-smallThe People of Paradise: Canoes and Coconut Crabs (1960)Producer 
film-smallThe People of Paradise: Outer Islands of Fiji (1960)Producer 
film-smallElsa the Lioness (1961)Producer 
film-smallZoo Quest : Zoo Quest to Madagascar (1961)Presenter,
Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Caviar Fishermen of the Caspian (1962)Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Quest Under Capricorn: Bush Walkabout (1963)Presenter,
Narrator,
Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Quest Under Capricorn: The Artists of Arnhem Land (1963)Presenter,
Narrator,
Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Quest Under Capricorn: The Desert Gods (1963)Presenter,
Narrator,
Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Quest Under Capricorn: The First Australians (1963)Presenter,
Narrator,
Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Zambezi: Livingstone's River (1965)Presenter,
Narrator,
Director,
Producer 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Zambezi: Lord of the Land (1965)Producer,
Narrator,
Presenter,
Director 
film-smallAdventure (BBC): Zambezi: The Ancient Highway (1965)Presenter,
Narrator,
Director 
film-smallThe World About Us (1967 - 1987): Ghosts at the End of the Earth (1971)Narrator 
film-smallThe Wild Dogs of Africa (1973)Narrator 
film-smallFlying Prince of Wildlife (1975)Narrator 
film-smallThe Year of the Deer (1977)Narrator 
film-smallLife on Earth: Life in the Trees (1979)Presenter 
film-smallLife on Earth: The Infinite Variety (1979)Presenter 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): Flower from The Flames (1981)Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): The Impossible Bird (1981)Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): The Water Walkers (1981)Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): Twentieth Century Fox (1981)Narrator 
film-smallVoices in the Forest (1981)Script,
Narrator 
film-smallThe Bat that Cracked the Frog Code (1982)Narrator 
film-smallAliens From Inner Space (1983)Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): Nightlife (1983)Script 
film-smallThe Kiwai: Dugong hunters of Daru (1983)Script,
Narrator 
film-smallThe Living Planet: New Worlds (1984)Writer,
Narrator 
film-smallThe Living Planet: Sweet Fresh Water (1984)Presenter,
Narrator,
Writer 
film-smallThe Living Planet: The Building of the Earth (1984)Writer,
Narrator 
film-smallThe Living Planet: The Making of The Living Planet (1984)Writer 
film-smallThe Living Planet: The Open Ocean (1984)Script,
Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): Fastest Claw in the West (1985)Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): In-Flight Movie (1987)Presenter,
Narrator 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): Meerkats United (1987)Narrator 
film-smallThe Trials of Life: Arriving (1990)Narrator 
film-smallThe Trials of Life: Hunting and Escaping (1990)Presenter 
film-smallWildlife on One (1977 - 2005): Barrels of Crude and Wallaroos (1991)Narrator 
film-smallToo Close For Comfort? (1992)Narrator 
film-smallEcho of the Elephants (1993)Writer,
Narrator 
film-smallKiller Whales: Wolves of the Sea (1993)Narrator 
film-smallLife in the Freezer: The Big Freeze (1993)Presenter 
film-smallLife in the Freezer: The Bountiful Sea (1993)Presenter 
film-smallGreat White Shark (1994)Narrator 
film-smallMysteries of the Ocean Wanderers (1994)Narrator 
film-smallOrang-utans Out on a Limb (1994)Narrator 
film-smallThe Private Life of Plants: Growing (1995)Presenter 
film-smallThe Private Life of Plants: Travelling (1995)Presenter 
film-smallAttenborough in Paradise (1996)Writer,
Narrator 
film-smallEcho of the Elephants: The Next Generation (1996)Narrator,
Presenter 
film-smallIncredible Suckers (1996)Narrator 
film-smallThe Secret Life of Seahorses (1996)Narrator 
film-smallThe Wildlife Specials: Crocodile: The Smiling Predator (1997)Presenter 
film-smallPygmy Chimpanzee: The Last Great Ape (1997)Narrator 
film-smallThey Said It Couldn't Be Done: In-Flight Movie (1999)Presenter 
film-smallThey Said It Couldn't Be Done: Kingdom of the Ice Bear: The Frozen Ocean (1999)Presenter 
film-smallThey Said It Couldn't Be Done: Mzima: Portrait of a Spring (1999)Presenter 
film-smallThey Said It Couldn't Be Done: Too Close For Comfort (1999)Presenter 
film-smallThe Blue Planet: Introduction (2001)Narrator 
film-smallThe Blue Planet: The Deep (2001)Narrator 
film-smallCitizen Cane Toad (2002)Narrator 
film-smallPlanet Earth Diary: Caves (2006)Narrator 
film-smallPlanet Earth: From Pole to Pole (2006)Narrator 
film-smallPlanet Earth: Great Plains (2006)Narrator 
film-smallPlanet Earth: Shallow Seas (2006)Narrator 
film-smallFrozen Planet: Spring (2011)Narrator 
film-smallFrozen Planet: To the Ends of the Earth (2011)Presenter 
Stills
David Attenborough recording a frog chorus with an L2 EMI recorder
David Attenborough recording a frog chorus...
David Attenborough recording egret song and Charles Lagus filming, for Zoo Quest to Guiana
David Attenborough recording egret song and...
David Attenborough and Geoffrey Mulligan filming indri
David Attenborough and Geoffrey Mulligan...
David Attenborough outside a cave entrance during filming for Life on Earth
David Attenborough outside a cave entrance...
David Attenborough during filming for Life on Earth
David Attenborough during filming for Life...
David Attenborough studying a script for The Living Planet
David Attenborough studying a script for...
Some of the production team for The Living Planet
Some of the production team for The Living...
Filming David Attenborough in a macaroni penguin colony using a jib arm for Life in the Freezer
Filming David Attenborough in a macaroni...
Sync crew using jib arm to film David Attenborough for Life in the Freezer
Sync crew using jib arm to film David Attenborough...
Left to Right: Doug Allan, Mike Richards, Gavin Thurston, Hugh Miles and David Attenborough
Left to Right: Doug Allan, Mike Richards,...
David Attenborough in bubble helmet
David Attenborough in bubble helmet
David Attenborough while filming for Life on Earth: The Infinite Variety
David Attenborough while filming for Life...
David Attenborough with Peter Scott at Slimbridge
David Attenborough with Peter Scott at Slimbridge
David Attenborough next to a rattlesnake while on location for Life on Earth
David Attenborough next to a rattlesnake...
David Attenborough in a macaroni penguin colony during filming for Life in the Freezer
David Attenborough in a macaroni penguin...
David Attenborough with king penguin chicks
David Attenborough with king penguin chicks
David Attenborough with mountain gorillas during filming for Life on Earth
David Attenborough with mountain gorillas...
David Attenborough with Gavin Thurston filming grass for The Private Life of Plants
David Attenborough with Gavin Thurston filming...
David Attenborough during filming for The Living Planet
David Attenborough during filming for The...
David Attenborough
David Attenborough
BBC production staff
BBC production staff
David Attenborough in rainforest with a titan arum inflorescence for The Private Life of Plants
David Attenborough in rainforest with a titan...
David Attenborough presenting The Private Life of Plants, with film crew: Neil Nightingale, Gavin Thurston (camera) and Trevor Gosling (sound)
David Attenborough presenting The Private...
David Attenborough with mountain gorillas on location for Life on Earth
David Attenborough with mountain gorillas...
Johnny Morris, David Attenborough, Desmond Morris and Peter Scott
Johnny Morris, David Attenborough, Desmond...
David Attenborough (right) presenting Alan Root with Wildscreen Outstanding Achievement Award, 1994
David Attenborough (right) presenting Alan...
David Attenborough filming at Avebury stone circle for The Living Planet: New Worlds
David Attenborough filming at Avebury stone...
David Attenborough with a giant anteater
David Attenborough with a giant anteater
David Attenborough recording in a Dyak longhouse
David Attenborough recording in a Dyak longhouse
David Attenborough receives award
David Attenborough receives award