David Attenborough made nature exciting. His enthusiasm for his work and for the world we inhabit made watching him way more fun than it had any business being. Who knew that a couple of glow worms could be so interesting? Or that so many cool creatures live at the bottom of the ocean?
So many people owe their love of nature to Sir David Attenborough. Keep reading to discover the most interesting facts behind the man who gave us the world. Did you know that he had a hand in bringing us one of the most iconic British comedies of all time?
So Many BAFTAs
Sir David Attenborough is the only person to win a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for a programme in black and white, color, HD, 3D, and 4K. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been making excellent films since the early ’50s.
David Attenborough has seen television and film evolve from its origins to where it is today. Obviously, he deserves each and every one of those BAFTAs. What did we do to deserve this man?
He Shared His Deepest Thoughts With Us
David Attenborough married Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel In 1950. They had two children together, Robert and Susan.
In 1997, Jane collapsed with a brain hemorrhage. Attenborough flew home from filming in New Zealand immediately to find his wife alive but in a coma. He spoke to her and held her hand at the hospital. He spent that evening with her, but unfortunately, she passed away the next day. He then wrote: “The focus of my life, the anchor had gone … Now I was lost”.
He Made Monty Python Happen
Whilst working as the BBC Two controller, Sir David Attenborough approved Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969, the comedy group’s first ever major production series. Of course, they went on to create life-long classics such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Life of Brian in 1979.
Basically, we have David Attenborough to thank for some of the funniest films in human history. Thank goodness this man has a good sense of humor.
Save The Turtles
During the filming of Planet Earth II, the filmmakers went out of their way to save the lost baby turtles despite the convention that, as Sir David Attenborough said, “If you’re a film cameraman you are trained, as it were, to be the observer, a non-participant.”
In theory, I agree with David Attenborough, but in practice, I don’t think I would be able to leave those little turtles to fend for themselves.
A Scary Situation
The remains from a mysterious murder were found in David Attenborough’s backyard. While renovating his new house, Sir David Attenborough came across the skull of a woman murdered by her employee. The woman formerly lived in the same house and her skull was missing for 131 years.
The woman’s name was Julia Martha Thomas as she was killed by her maid, Kate Webster. Kate dismembered Julia’s body and threw most of it in the River Thames. She was hanged for her crime in 1879.
The actor Richard Attenborough, the old guy who played a naturalist in the Jurassic Park movies, is the real-life brother of David Attenborough, the old guy naturalist from the BBC.
Unfortunately, Richard Attenborough died in 2014. He was 90 years old at the time. Richard was buried next to his daughter and his granddaughter, both of whom died in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Tragedy just can’t seem to leave this family alone.
Too Rude For TV
Sir David Attenborough coined a new popular name for the corpse flower because he felt that constantly referring to the plant’s original scientific name on a popular TV documentary would be inappropriate. What was the original name, you ask? “Amorphophallus titanum,” which literally translates to “giant misshapen phallus.”
Attenborough decided to call the plant “Titan arum” instead. That just seemed a little bit more professional and safe for television.
Why He Always Wears The Same Outfit
If you always wear the same outfit, you don’t have to keep track of which scenes belong to which timeline, or even which movie. It’s actually a genius strategy. I wonder if he ever got bored of that outfit, though.
He Made Bungee Jumping Popular
A David Attenborough documentary on “land diving” on Pentecost Island led to the invention of modern bungee jumping. Land diving is a ritual that involves men jumping off of wooden towers that are close to 100 feet high. They jump with tree vines wrapped around their ankles as their only safety equipment.
The ritual has since developed into more of a tourist attraction. I guess somebody saw all these men jumping, thought it was a good idea, and invented bungee jumping.
There Are Two Versions Of Life
There are two versions of the BBC’s nature documentary Life. The UK version narrated by Sir David Attenborough and The US version narrated by Oprah Winfrey. I love Oprah, but she has no business narrating nature documentaries when the master has already done the job. Careful when purchasing this documentary.
What Happened During The War
Richard and David Attenborough’s parents adopted two Jewish-German girls nine months before World War II broke out because their house had been smashed by Nazi’s and their father was taken away.
It’s nice to know that the Attenboroughs were the good guys during the second world war and that they were able to give these children a home. The girls were named Helga and Irene Bejach, and both of their biological parents were killed during the war.
A Gigantic Endeavor
The filming for Planet Earth took over 5 years, 40 camera teams, and over 200 different locations to complete. Those nature documentary series’ are absolutely insane. Every time I watch one I wonder about how they get all of those amazing shots.
Planet Earth is a big place, so it makes sense that a documentary about our big blue planet would be unbelievably huge. How do they get so close to all of those animals? Do they just have really good zoom lenses?
Passing The Torch
David Attenborough’s son, Robert Attenborough, is a senior lecturer in bioanthropology for the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra. It looks like his father’s love of nature and science really had an influence on him.
David Attenborough inspired so many children to study our planet and the origins of species. I’m glad that his own son made a career out of discovering more about the human species.
David Attenborough has a close connection to universities. He grew up in College House on the campus of the University College, Leicester, where his father, Frederick, was principal. Later, he won a scholarship to Claire College, Cambridge, where he studied zoology and geology.
By January 2013, Attenborough had collected 32 honorary degrees from British universities in addition to his degree from Claire College. That’s more degrees than any one person knows what to do with.
The Order Of Merit
David Attenborough was awarded the Order of Merit. This is the only award where the recipient is personally chosen by the reigning monarch (in Attenborough’s case, it was Queen Elizabeth II) with no government intervention.
The award recognizes distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Only 24 living people can hold the award at any one time. Charles, Prince of Wales, has one, and so does Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web.
What’s In A Name?
Many animals and plants (living as well as extinct) have been named after Sir David Attenborough, including a goblin spider, a Tasmanian snail, an extinct marsupial, a long-beaked echidna, a rare butterfly, a flightless weevil, a ghost shrimp, a pitcher plant, and an extinct armored fish.
You know you’re leaving a fantastic legacy when there are not one, but a whole bunch of members of the animal kingdom who share your name.
the Oldest Tortoise
David Attenborough met Tu’i Malila, a tortoise from Madagascar presented to the Tongan Royal Family by Captain James Cook in July 1777. The tortoise died in 1965 when she was 188 years old.
Tu’i Malila’s body has been preserved and it is now being kept at the Royal Palace of Tonga. I bet David Attenborough was more excited to meet Tu’i Malila than Tu’i Malila was to meet David Attenborough.
A Shrewd Businessman
David Attenborough took a large amount newts from a pond less than five meters from the zoology department at University College, Leicester, and sold them back to the department.
This newt catching expedition may have sparked his love of animals and nature. Although, a lot of kids catch frogs and newts. Not all of those kids grow up to be David Attenborough. This guy is a breed all his own.
A Wild Cartoon
Did you know that there’s a Nickelodeon cartoon character who is strongly influenced by David Attenborough? Can you guess who it is? I’ll give you a clue: he’s British, he makes wildlife documentaries, he has a big nose, a mustache, large front teeth… do you know who it is yet?
He’s A British Icon
In 2012, the artist behind the Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover made a new version of his famous art piece to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life.
David Attenborough is featured in the collage alongside Gary Oldman, Eric Clapton, Sir Ridley Scott, Amy Winehouse, and Sir Elton John, and plenty of others. Clearly, many people consider David Attenborough a British icon, and for good reason.
He Considers Himself Agnostic
David Attenborough considers himself an agnostic. When asked about creationism vs. evolution, he said,
“My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers, and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that’s going to make him blind. And [I ask them], ‘Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child’s eyeball? Because that doesn’t seem to me to coincide with a God who’s full of mercy'”
He’s Still Working
David Attenborough is still narrating nature documentaries even though he’s in his early nineties. This is a man who truly loves his work. In June 2013, Attenborough had a pacemaker fitted, and in September of that same year he said,
“If I was earning my money by hewing coal I would be very glad indeed to stop. But I’m not. I’m swanning round the world looking at the most fabulously interesting things. Such good fortune.”
He Wasn’t Supposed To Be On TV
When David Attenborough started working for the BBC, he didn’t even have a television set. It was the ’50’s, so most people didn’t have a television set.
He started out as a radio producer, and then started working for their new television department. He was initially discouraged from appearing on camera because his coworkers thought his teeth were too big. I have never in my life looked at David Attenborough and thought that his teeth were too big.
He Spent Two Years In The Navy
After he graduated from Cambridge In 1947, Attenborough decided to join the British Navy as his first venture into world exploration. He spent two years in the Navy before he decided to pursue a career more in line with his degree in zoology.
During a BBC One Twitter Q&A, Attenborough revealed that nature had first taken his breath away when he became “aware of a great crested newt displaying in a pond in Leicestershire when I was 8.”
He’s Traveled More Than Anyone In History
Besides astronauts, nobody has traveled more than David Attenborough. For the 1998 series Life of Birds, he traveled 256,000 miles by air. He’s been to every continent in the world, culminating in 2009 when he reached the North Pole at the ripe old age of 83.
He’s been moving around the globe filming flora and fauna since the 1970s. Nobody else on earth has traveled that much in a single lifetime.
A Vicious Plant
I’m sure the plant just got the name because David Attenborough studies plants and not because David Attenborough also swallows rodents whole. I’m pretty sure he’s a British gentleman who doesn’t engage in such acts, but I guess everyone has their secrets.
He Didn’t Like George W. Bush
David Attenborough didn’t exactly approve of George W. Bush’s policies on the environment. Attenborough may not be American, but he definitely recognizes the impact America has on the global environment. Attenborough named George W. Bush as the era’s top “environmental villain” in an interview with BBC Wildlife Magazine in 2005.
I wonder how he feels about President Donald Trump. I think he probably doesn’t like him or his policies very much.
He Hates The Term “Animal Lover”
David Attenborough is a nature enthusiast, but he isn’t a fan of the term “animal lover.”
He once said, “‘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 all together.” …. “The phrase ‘animal lover’ – well, it just grates on me!” I guess there’s a difference between studying something and truly loving it.
He Would Come Back As A Sloth
During a Twitter Q&A, David Attenborough was asked what animal he’d like to be in his next life. He said if he could, he would be a sloth. He was pretty certain about this answer, and honestly, I can see why.
After all of that hard work and running around the globe, he probably just wants to lay around and be slow for a while. I think we all want to be sloths on some level.
He Struggled To Watch His Brother Act
Attenborough told The Independent that he “couldn’t bear to watch” 10 Rillington Place in which his late brother, Richard, played a ruthless murderer. He added, “He [Richard] was very, very funny and could be – and was – in domestic circumstances. We just spent all our time roaring with laughter – and that didn’t get much of an outlet in his feature films.’
Now I wish Richard Attenborough had done more comedic films.