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David Attenborough
Life on Earth

David Attenborough, (Sir David Frederick Attenborough) was born in London, 8 May 1926 into the family a Cambridge school administrator and his wife. He read zoology and geology at Clare College, Cambridge. After a brief spell in the Royal Navy, he joined a publishing house as an editorial assistant (1949-52) before moving to BBC television as a trainee producer in the Television Talks Department at Alexandra Palace.

Attenborough conceived the idea of a TV series based on animals in their natural habitats and, in 1954, the first Zoo Quest programmes were filmed in Sierra Leone. In the second series, Attenborough took over as presenter and also wrote the first of several books to accompany the programmes, Zoo Quest to Guiana (1956). His ten years of involvement with the Zoo Quest series took him to many of the wilder parts of the world. He was also involved in a wide range of political, archaeological religious, short story and gardening programmes in these years.

In 1965, Attenborough was appointed controller of BBC 2, the BBC's newly created second channel. In this role he was responsible for overseeing the production of such notable series as Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man and Kenneth Clarke's Civilization. There were also many technical concerns associated with the introduction of colour television in Britain. In January 1969, he was appointed Director of Programmes with editorial responsibility for both of the BBC's television networks. Then, in 1973, he resigned to return to programme-making and writing.

The Tribal Eye (1976), a series concerned with art in so-called primitive’ societies, was followed by an extensive 13-part series series about evolution called Life on Earth (1978) - at the time the most ambitious series ever produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. Watched by an estimated 500 million people worldwide it was highly praised and the companion book, Life on Earth (1979), became a best-seller. This was followed by several equally successful series, notably The Living Planet (1983), in which Attenborough presented examples of how plants and animals are adapted to their environments, and The Trials of Life (1990), which examined the processes by which various species survive.

In 1993, Sir David presented the spectacular Life in the Freezer, a celebration of Antarctica and in 1995, he wrote and presented the epic The Private Life of Plants. In 1996, Attenborough in Paradise fulfilled a lifelong ambition to make a special film about the elusive but beautiful birds of paradise. In 1997, he narrated the award-winning Wildlife Specials, marking 40 years of the BBC Natural History Unit. In 1998, he completed an epic 10-part series for the BBC, The Life of Birds. In Autumn 2000 he presented State of the Planet and in Autumn 2001 he narrated The Blue Planet. He is currently working on a major BBC1 series for 2002, The Life of Mammals, for transmission in Autumn 2002.

Over the years he has received several honorary degrees and a number of prestigious awards. He was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1974 and became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1983. He was Knighted as Sir David Attenborough in 1985.

Attenborough was a member of the Nature Conservancy Council (1973-82) and was a trustee of the UK branch of WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) until 1990 and of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew until 1992; he remains a trustee of the British Museum. In 1991 he was elected president of the British Association. He is known for his passionate advocacy of international action to save wildlife and their habitats from destruction by human activities and was President of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation.


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