He’s been sharing his knowledge, enthusiasm and love of the natural world with television audiences for more than 60 years and his hushed, almost awe-struck tones have informed and captivated in equal measure.
He was an early convert to the natural world, collecting fossils, stones and specimens throughout his childhood before winning a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, where he obtained a degree in natural sciences.
His broadcasting career started almost by accident. He’d applied, and failed, to become a BBC radio talk producer in the early 1950s but his CV remained on file and was noticed by the head of factual broadcasting for the corporation’s TV arm, which was then very much in its infancy.
Despite having only seen one TV programme in his life, Attenborough was recruited and trained up. Even then, the road to presenting stardom was far from smooth – Sir David was initially discouraged from appearing in front of the camera because his teeth were considered to be too big.
Somewhere along the way, those teeth shrunk in importance and the rest is TV history.
His work has captured both the hearts and minds of the viewing public – perhaps most famously when he was filmed with a group of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. He had intended to merely observe the animals from a distance but instead found himself face to face with an adult female.
He turned to the camera and delivered an ad-libbed speech – whispered of course – which ended with the statement that: ‘…it seems really very unfair that man should have chosen the gorilla to symbolise everything that is aggressive and violent, when that is the one thing that the gorilla is not — and that we are.’
The next day he returned to the same spot and was filmed with the female and two younger gorillas who groomed and played with him. It was TV gold, a wildlife presenter’s dream and, in Sir David’s words, ‘one of the most exciting encounters of my life.’
Sir David’s affinity with both animals and the planet has shone through all his series, from Life on Earth through to Frozen Planet, and he has campaigned tirelessly to try and halt man’s insatiable plundering of the world’s natural resources, saying: ‘I’ve been lucky in my lifetime to see some of the greatest spectacles that the natural world has to offer. Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species.’
But he was never ‘only’ the greatest wildlife presenter television has ever known.
He became Controller of BBC 2 in 1965 and oversaw the broadcasting of some of the country’s, and occasionally, the world’s most influential programmes – from Monty Python’s Flying Circus to The Old Grey Whistle Test.
He also grasped the opportunities presented by the invention of colour TV to show snooker in all its glory for the first time as well as introducing a generation of southerners to the delights of Rugby League.
Sir David Attenborough has lived a long and distinguished life and we have a large number of items, all signed by the man himself, that reflect his extraordinary career.
From signed photos of Sir David with many of the world’s wild and wondrous animals to portraits of him braving some of the planet’s most inhospitable terrains, this is your chance to own a piece of television and scientific history and to welcome a genuine national treasure into your own home.