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Sir David Attenborough

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Sir David Attenborough has been a unique force of nature in broadcasting for over 60 years and a pioneer at every stage of his career. He started work in the fledgling BBC TV service (1952), initially in studio programmes and then in 1954 made the first Zoo Quest series to West Africa. It was only when the presenter, the London Zoo’s Curator of Reptiles, fell ill, that David Attenborough stepped in front of the camera and a broadcasting tradition was born. He made 5 more Zoo Quest series in which he explored the world’s remotest jungles encountering warring tribespeople and dangerous wild animals.

He went on to swap his safari outfit for a suit, becoming controller of BBC2 in 1965 and continued his pioneering ways. He launched colour television and instigated both one day cricket and Pot Black. He commissioned the ground breaking series Civilisation and The Ascent of Man. Their success set him thinking about applying the same ambitious editorial sweep and high production values to the living world. In 1973 he decided to leave BBC management, despite being hotly tipped as the next DG, to make Life on Earth. The series was viewed in over 100 countries by an estimated audience of 500 million. It inspired a whole generation of biologists and wildlife filmmakers and was followed by 9 more landmark series which built to a complete overview of life on the planet.

Some of his greatest triumphs have been to bring unlikely box office subjects to huge audiences by using the latest technology: time lapse photography in the case of Private Life of Plants and specialist macro cameras in Life in the Undergrowth, thereby transforming our understanding of plants and insects. He is still at the cutting edge of wildlife filmmaking; recently presenting the BBC1 series Africa and making 3D natural history films on subjects ranging from pterosaurs to penguins.

Listen to: David Attenborough - My Life in Sound