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David Attenborough

Weston Library Opening by John Cairns 20.3.15-139 (cropped).jpg
Attenborough at the opening of the Weston Library in March 2015
David Frederick Attenborough

8 May 1926 (1926-05-08) (age 95)
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Cambridge (BA)
Years active 1952–present
Title Controller of BBC2 (1965-1969)
President of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation (1991–1996)
Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel
(m. 1950; d. 1997)
Children 2
Parent(s) Frederick Attenborough
  • Richard Attenborough (brother)
  • John Attenborough (brother)
  • Michael Attenborough (nephew)
  • Charlotte Attenborough (niece)
  • Cherry Kearton Medal and Award (1974)
  • BAFTA Fellowship (1980)
  • Kalinga Prize (1981)
  • Kew International Medal (1996)
  • International Cosmos Prize (2000)
  • RSPB Medal (2000)
  • Michael Faraday Prize (2003)
  • José Vasconcelos World Award of Education (2004)
  • Descartes Prize (2004)
  • Nierenberg Prize (2005)
  • Princess of Asturias Award (2009)
  • Fonseca Prize (2010)
David Attenborough's signature.svg

Sir David Frederick Attenborough OM CH CVO CBE FRS FLS FZS FSA FRSGS ( born 8 May 1926) is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection that together constitute a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.

He is a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s.

He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K.

In 2018 and 2019 he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator.

Attenborough is widely considered a national treasure in the UK, although he himself does not like the term. In 2002 he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide poll for the BBC.

He is the younger brother of the director, producer and actor Richard Attenborough, and older brother of the motor executive John Attenborough.

At least twenty plants and animals, both living and extinct, have been named in Attenborough's honour.

Selected Filmography

  • Life on Earth (1979)
  • The Living Planet (1984)
  • The Trials of Life (1990)
  • Life in the Freezer (1993)
  • The Private Life of Plants (1995)
  • The Life of Birds (1998)
  • The Life of Mammals (2002)
  • Life in the Undergrowth (2005)
  • Life in Cold Blood (2008)
  • David Attenborough's Life Stories (2009)
  • David Attenborough's New Life Stories (2011)
  • Drawn From Paradise: The Discovery, Art and Natural History of the Birds of Paradise (2012) - with Errol Fuller
  • Planet Earth II (2016)


David Attenborough's work as an author has strong parallels with his broadcasting career. In the 1950s and 1960s, his published work included accounts of his animal collecting expeditions around the world, which became the Zoo Quest series. He wrote an accompanying volume to each of his nine Life documentaries, along with books on tribal art and birds of paradise. His autobiography, Life on Air, was published in 2002, revised in 2009 and is one of a number of his works which is available as a self-narrated audiobook. Attenborough has also contributed forewords and introductions to many other works, notably those accompanying Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Africa and other BBC series he has narrated.

Audio recordings

  • Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson (available on audiocassette, 1978)
  • Yanomamo (musical entertainment, 1983) by Peter Rose and Anne Conlon; on-stage narration and published audio recording
  • Ocean World (musical entertainment, 1990) by Peter Rose and Anne Conlon; on-stage narration (including at The Royal Festival Hall), for audio recording and video broadcast (both published)
  • Peter and the Wolf for BBC Music Magazine (free CD with the June 2000 issue).

In addition, Attenborough has recorded some of his own works in audiobook form, including Life on Earth, Zoo Quest for a Dragon, and his autobiography Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster.

Species named in Attenborough's honour

Trigonopterus attenboroughi holotype - ZooKeys-467-011
Trigonopterus attenboroughi

At least 20 species and genera, both living and extinct, have been named in Attenborough's honour. Plants named after him include an alpine hawkweed (Hieracium attenboroughianum) discovered in the Brecon Beacons, a species of Ecuadorian flowering tree (Blakea attenboroughi), one of the world's largest-pitchered carnivorous plants (Nepenthes attenboroughii), along with a genus of flowering plants (Sirdavidia). Arthropods named after Attenborough include a butterfly, Attenborough's black-eyed satyr (Euptychia attenboroughi), a dragonfly, Attenborough's pintail (Acisoma attenboroughi), a millimetre-long goblin spider (Prethopalpus attenboroughi), an ornate Caribbean smiley-faced spider (Spintharus davidattenboroughi), an Indonesian flightless weevil (Trigonopterus attenboroughi), a Madagascan ghost shrimp (Ctenocheloides attenboroughi), and a soil snail (Palaina attenboroughi). The Monogenean Cichlidogyrus attenboroughi, a parasite from a deep-sea fish in the Lake Tanganyika, is probably the only parasite species named after him. Vertebrates have also been named after Attenborough, including a Namibian lizard (Platysaurus attenboroughi), a bird (Polioptila attenboroughi), a Peruvian frog (Pristimantis attenboroughi), a Madagascan stump-toed frog (Stumpffia davidattenboroughi), and one of only four species of long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi).

Sitana attenboroughii David Raju
Sitana attenboroughii

In 1993, after discovering that the Mesozoic reptile Plesiosaurus conybeari did not belong to the genus Plesiosaurus, the palaeontologist Robert Bakker renamed the species Attenborosaurus conybeari. A fossilised armoured fish discovered in Western Australia in 2008 was named Materpiscis attenboroughi, after Attenborough had filmed at the site and highlighted its scientific importance in Life on Earth. The Materpiscis fossil is believed to be the earliest organism capable of internal fertilisation. A miniature marsupial lion, Microleo attenboroughi, was named in his honour in 2016. The fossil grasshopper Electrotettix attenboroughi was named after Attenborough. In March 2017, a 430 million year old tiny crustacean was named after him. Called Cascolus ravitis, the first word is a Latin translation of the root meaning of "Attenborough", and the second is based on a description of him in Latin. In July 2017, the Caribbean bat Myotis attenboroughi was named after him. A new species of fan-throated lizard from coastal Kerala in southern India was named Sitana attenboroughii in his honour when it was described in 2018.

In 2018, a new species of phytoplankton, Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, was named to honour The Blue Planet, the TV documentary presented by Attenborough, and to recognise his contribution to promoting understanding of the oceanic environment. The same year, Attenborough was also commemorated in the name of the scarab beetle Sylvicanthon attenboroughi.


Bærekraftsprisen 2018
Sir David Attenborough in 2018 receiving an honorary award for his sustainability work from Bergen Business Council and Fana Sparebank
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Attenborough receiving the Landscape Institute Medal for Lifetime Achievement, and becoming an Honorary Fellow of the Landscape Institute in 2019
  • 1970: BAFTA Desmond Davis Award
  • 1972: Royal Geographical Society's Cherry Kearton Medal and Award
  • 1974: Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to nature conservation in the 1974 Birthday Honours
  • 1980: BAFTA Fellowship
  • 1981: Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science from UNESCO
  • 1983: Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) under Statute 12
  • 1985: Knight Bachelor in the 1985 Birthday Honours
  • 1991: Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) for producing Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas broadcast for a number of years from 1986 in the 1991 Birthday Honours
  • 1991: Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1996: Kew International Medal
  • 1996: Companion of Honour (CH) for services to nature broadcasting in the 1996 New Year Honours
  • 1997: Honorary Degree awarded by Ghent University
  • 1998: International Cosmos Prize
  • 2000: RSPB Medal
  • 2003: Michael Faraday Prize awarded by the Royal Society
  • 2004: Descartes Prize for Outstanding Science Communication Actions
  • 2004: Caird Medal of the National Maritime Museum
  • 2004: José Vasconcelos World Award of Education awarded by the World Cultural Council
  • 2005: Order of Merit (OM)
  • 2005: Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest
  • 2006: National Television Awards Special Recognition Award
  • 2006: Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management – Institute Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the public perception and understanding of ecology
  • 2006: The Culture Show British Icon Award
  • 2007: British Naturalists' Association Peter Scott Memorial Award
  • 2007: Fellowship of Society of Antiquaries
  • 2008 The Royal Photographic Society awarded Attenborough its Progress medal and Honorary Fellowship in recognition of any invention, research, publication or other contribution which has resulted in an important advance in the scientific or technological development of photography or imaging in the widest sense.
  • 2009: Prince of Asturias Award
  • 2010: Fonseca Prize
  • 2010: Queensland Museum Medal
  • 2011: Society for the History of Natural History Founders' Medal
  • 2011: Association for International Broadcasting AIB International TV Personality of the year
  • 2012: IUCN Phillips Memorial Medal for outstanding service in international conservation
  • 2015: Individual Peabody Award
  • 2017: Britain-Australia Society Award for outstanding contribution to strengthening British/Australian bilateral understanding and relations.
  • 2017: Honorary Member of the Moscow Society of Naturalists
  • 2017: Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society
  • 2018: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator
  • 2018: The Perfect World Foundation Award The Conservationist of the years 2018 & Prize "The Fragile Rhino"
  • 2019: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator
  • 2019: Landscape Institute Medal for Lifetime Achievement
  • 2019: Landscape Institute Honorary Fellow (HonFLI)
  • 2019: Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
  • 2020: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to television broadcasting and to conservation.

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