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Desmond Morris 

Desmond Morris on set for The Human Zoo

Renowned ethologist and author, Desmond Morris first became involved in wildlife filmmaking in 1956 when Sidney Bernstein, head of Granada TV, approached the Oxford University researcher to head Granada's new Natural History Unit, which was created in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London. Previous filmmaking experience was limited to the production of two surrealist films in 1950.

Based in the zoo grounds, Desmond presented Zoo Time, the first weekly wildlife series aimed at children and the first natural history programming on ITV. As a trained zoologist, Desmond was keen on exploring animal behaviour and this passion ultimately led him to leave Granada in 1959 when he was appointed curator of mammals at London Zoo. Desmond's research students included a young Jane Goodall and John Sparks, who later went on to become Head of the BBC Natural History Unit.

Due to the arrival of videotape, Desmond returned to Zoo Time in the 1960s, which now featured more behavioural sequences. In 1965 David Attenborough asked his friend Desmond to chair a new programme, Life, for the BBC which would not only feature animals but also discuss and debate natural history topics such as evolution.

Desmond published The Naked Ape, in 1967 and this frank study of human behaviour from a zoologist's perspective, was to become an international bestseller. However, Desmond's filming and writing commitments soon took their toll on his health and he moved to Malta for convalescence, returning to Oxford University in the 1970s as a research fellow, at the request of Niko Tinbergen. Desmond has published 55 books, as well as making several wildlife programmes such as the Animal Roadshow series with Sarah Kennedy.

In addition to his natural history pursuits, Desmond has contributed significantly to the British surrealist art movement; exhibiting his works around the world alongside artists such as Joan Miró and featuring works by one of Zoo Time's most famous stars, Congo the chimpanzee.

Oral History

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WildFilmHistory Films

film-smallTV50: Television and Natural History (1986)Writer,
Desmond Morris and Dr Jan van Hooff with a macaque on the set of Life
Desmond Morris and Dr Jan van Hooff with...
Desmond Morris on set for The Human Zoo
Desmond Morris on set for The Human Zoo
Johnny Morris, David Attenborough, Desmond Morris and Peter Scott
Johnny Morris, David Attenborough, Desmond...