Sir David Attenborough Facts

How old is David Attenborough?

Sir David Attenborough is 95 years old. He was born on the 8th May, 1926 in West London (Isleworth), in the same year as Queen Elizabeth II. His full name is David Frederick Attenborough.

David Attenborough’s Family & Early Years

He grew up at University College, Leicester with his parents and two brothers. His elder brother, Richard Attenborough, became an actor and starred in blockbuster films such as The Great Escape and Jurassic Park. Sir David Attenborough’s younger brother, John, worked in the motor industry.

As a child, David spent his time collecting fossils, stones and natural specimens resulting in him creating a “mini-museum.” In 1945, he won a scholarship to read Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. After University, he completed 2 years of national service in the Royal Navy. Attenborough then worked as an editor for children’s science textbooks, before embarking on his rather well known career in broadcasting.

How long has Sir David Attenborough been on TV?

Sir David Attenborough has been involved in television for over 68 years, since 1952, when he joined the BBC as a producer on non-fiction broadcasts. Like many people in that decade, he didn’t even own a television. Not many people know it, but initially, David Attenborough applied to work as a radio talk producer for the BBC in 1950, but was rejected!

The Head of Factual broadcasting at the time, Mary Adams (the first-ever female TV producer at the BBC), discouraged Attenborough from appearing in front of the camera due to his oversized teeth! So he became a TV producer instead, creating factual programs, documentaries and films on the BBC. The first program he produced was called Coelacanth, and was about the rediscovery of a prehistoric fish.

Attenborough did, however, manage to get in front of the camera, despite his teeth. Writing, presenting and producing a multi-part nature documentary called Zoo Quest in 1954.After several successful years at the BBC as a producer and more frequently a presenter, he undertook a postgraduate degree in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics (LSE). Before he could finish his degree, he returned as the controller of BBC2 in 1965.

Being controller of BBC2 was an administrative role giving Sir David Attenborough power to choose what programmes were shown. He began commissioning programs to make the channel more diverse and include more natural history programmes. Attenborough had a clause written into his contract that allowed him to continue to occasionally make and present programs.

Narrated by David Attenborough

After leaving the BBC to become a freelance broadcaster, Attenborough went on to write several award-winning programmes about the natural world and anthropology. These include Life on Earth (1979), Life in the Freezer (1993), The Life of Mammals (2002), Blue Planet (2000), Planet Earth (2006) and Africa (2013).

Sir David Attenborough has also contributed to many other nature documentaries that he has narrated. Including Our Planet (Netflix), Frozen Planet, Africa and many more BBC & Sky series. In 1974 Sir David Attenborough was awarded a CBE, followed by a knighthood in 1985 for services to Television.

Sir David Attenborough facts that you might not know about

  1. He is the only person to have won a BAFTA for documentaries in black and white, colour, HD and 3D.
  2. Attenborough had a pacemaker fitted in June 2013.
  3. He almost died whilst filming dolphins in the Bahamas for The Trials of Life. A wave knocked him under a dive platform. Producer Alastair Fothergill admitted that Attenborough was “unconscious and there was blood everywhere. The one thing you don’t want on your CV is you’re the man who killed David Attenborough.” Thankfully, he made a swift recovery.
  4. Sir David doesn’t own a car as he never passed his driving test.
  5. He is terrified of rats.

Is David Attenborough vegan or vegetarian? Does David Attenborough eat meat?

In an interview with Louis Theroux in June 2017, Sir David Attenborough admitted that he was cutting back on meat. Becoming “increasingly vegetarian” he pondered that “subconsciously maybe it’s because of the state of the planet.”

When asked about the need for humans to reduce their meat consumption, Sir David said “we can’t go on eating meat at the rate we have been.”

Even though he has spent decades observing and narrating animals in the wild, Attenborough has admitted that he is not an animal lover. (One of the most surprising Sir David Attenborough facts around!)

“Animal lover means sentiment; a cloying, anthropomorphising sentiment. I don’t love earth worms or spiders. They’re rivetingly interesting and they give me huge intellectual pleasure. And aesthetic pleasure, I suppose. But that’s a different thing altogether.”

Does David Attenborough fly?

Sir David Attenborough is one of the most travelled people in the world. Something that he is very aware, contradicts his feelings on sustainability and climate change.

For the filming of “The Life of Birds,” Attenborough travelled 256,000 miles during filming. That equates to 10 times around the Earth, something that would certainly concern supporters of Flygskam.

Addressing MP’s in July 2019, he admitted that there was indeed a “paradox” because he flies across the globe to present nature programmes. Saying “I have travelled by air only too frequently in the last six months in order to make programmes. Some of them programmes about the very subject we’re talking about.”

After being asked how he thought the impact of air-travel on climate change could be reduced, Attenborough said “The long term solution is you work out a way of powering aeroplanes electrically.” But, he confessed the short term fix is probably to “adjust the price of plane tickets” so that they are more expensive and no-longer “extraordinarily cheap.”

David Attenborough, Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family

Whilst being born just 17 days apart in London in 1926, Sir David Attenborough and Queen Elizabeth II have had a long-standing friendship and working relationship that has lasted decades.

In 1956, Attenborough introduced a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne to his cockatoo named “Cocky” during their visit to the BBC Television Studios.

In 1969, a famous BBC documentary that went behind the scenes of the royal family, titled The Royal Family, was vehemently scrutinised by Attenborough, who at the time was BBC controller. He felt that the documentary would “kill the monarchy” and was upset at the prospect of broadcasting the film. Luckily for him, the Royal family and the BBC, it did not.

In 1985, the Queen knighted Attenborough, who became Sir David Attenborough, for services to television. This followed on from the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) he received in 1974.

1986 & 1991
In 1986 and 1991, Attenborough produced the Queen’s Speech, a 10 minute annual broadcast that the Queen uses to summarise the years big events and wish her subjects a Happy Christmas. It’s watched by millions of people every year and showed the trust that Queen Elizabeth has in Sir David Attenborough.

In 2017, Attenborough and Queen Elizabeth appeared in The Queen’s Green Planet. It was a documentary about the environment, trees and the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, which is creating a global network of protected forest. It is thought that their friendship and this documentary was party responsible for the Royal Household banning plastic straws and reducing the use of all plastics across their estates.

In 2019, Sir David Attenborough was interviewed at the World Economic Forum in Davos by the Queen’s eldest grandson, Prince William. Having long been an admirer of Attenborough, Prince William described him as “the single most important impact in my conservation thinking.”

How much is David Attenborough worth?

He may be 94, but Sir David Attenborough is still raking in the cash. Sir David Attenborough’s age is doing nothing to slow him down. It is estimated that David Attenborough is worth around £30 million. In 2017, his company (David Attenborough Productions Ltd) made over £2.1million.

David Attenborough is not just worth a lot of money, he is also a national treasure in the UK. He appeared in the top 100 Britons in a national poll in 2002 (even if he was behind David Beckham). In other more recent polls, he ranked as high as 6th, much higher than David Beckham.

David Attenborough Climate Change: The Facts and Opinions

Whilst Sir David Attenborough has been at the forefront of nature broadcasting for the past 50 years, he has often been critiscised for not speaking out enough against climate change and pollution.

The past few years and most recent documentaries have seen a shift in his rhetoric, opening up about human impacts on nature and the environment. The final episode of Blue Planet 2, focussed on ocean plastic and the impact it is having on marine life, leaving viewers around the world distraught. The Netflix documentary Our Planet (2019), was criticised for not being urgent or radical enough and just more ‘nature porn.’

In 2019, Sir David Attenborough presented Climate Change: The Facts. A one-off documentary aired in the UK on BBC, and now being shown to a global audience. It focused on how climate change was something that scientists were predicting would happen in the future, but that it is affecting us all now. Whilst it’s one of the greatest challenges we have faced, if we act quickly and effectively, we can overcome it. It included an interview with Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish activist, who has been responsible for starting and growing the School Strike for Climate movement.

David Attenborough Climate Change Quotes

“Young people: They care. They know that this is the world that they’re going to grow up in, that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in. But, I think it’s more idealistic than that. They actually believe that humanity, human species, has no right to destroy and despoil regardless.”

“We really need to kick the carbon habit and stop making our energy from burning things. Climate change is also really important. You can wreck one rainforest then move, drain one area of resources and move onto another, but climate change is global.”

“Surely we have a responsibility to care for our planet. The future of humanity and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us.”

“Many individuals are doing what they can. But real success can only come if there is a change in our societies and in our economics and in our politics.”

“We have been putting things off year after year. We’ve been raising targets, saying ‘oh well, if we do it in the next 20 years …’ the moment of crisis has come.”

RSS Boaty McBoatFace / RSS Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough has over 10 plants and animals that are named after him, including a giant carnivorous plant (Nepenthes Attenboroughii), that can devour animals as large as rats. However, it is not an animal or a plant that is the most famous thing to be named in admiration of Sir David, but a ship.

In 2016, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) announced that members of the public were going to be able to vote for the name of the new £150 million polar research vessel. A BBC Radio presenter, James Hand, jokingly suggested the name ‘Boaty McBoatface’ which quickly gained public backing, winning the poll with over 124,109 votes.

However, it was announced that the ship was to be called RSS Sir David Attenborough in honour of the naturalist. And in 2018, one of the submersibles was named ‘Boaty McBoatface.’

Did you enjoy those David Attenborough facts? If so, why not subscribe to our weekly email. Full of interesting environmental facts, stories and news.

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment