David Attenborough

On this date in 1926, Sir David Attenborough was born in London, England. He is the brother of Lord Richard Attenborough, the director and actor. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1947 with a degree in Natural Sciences and then spent two years in the Royal Navy. In 1952, Attenborough joined the BBC as a producer. He began working on his first series, “Zoo Quest” (1954–1964), a wildlife documentary series, in 1954. Attenborough was appointed controller of BBC Two in 1965, and director of programming in 1969, until he decided to return to creating nature series in 1973. He is known for the popular trilogy “Life on Earth” (1979), “The Living Planet” (1984) and “The Trials of Life” (1990). His other series include “The Private Life of Plants” (1995) and “Life of Birds” (1998). He was knighted in 1985 for his services to television. Attenborough was married to Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel from 1950 until her death in 1997. They have two children.

He was never religious and was not brought up with faith. “It never really occurred to me to believe in God,” Attenborough said in a 2009 interview with Radio Times. “And I had nothing to rebel against. My parents told me nothing whatsoever. But I do remember looking at my headmaster delivering a sermon, a classicist, extremely clever... and thinking, he can’t really believe all that, can he? How incredible!”

When Radio Times asked Attenborough why he never credited God in his nature documentaries, Attenborough responded: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.” Attenborough addressed evolution in his documentary “Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life” (2009). "People write to me that evolution is only a theory. Well, it is not a theory. Evolution is as solid a historical fact as you could conceive,” Attenborough told BBC in 2009.

“I’m an agnostic.” 

—David Attenborough, BBC, Jan. 25, 2012.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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