David Attenborough: A Voice You Know, And A Man You Don't (His Life Story)

By Grace Taylor
TV presenter David Attenborough walking to work on a snowy morning the day after his appointment as controller of BBC2, March 4, 1965. (Ron Burton/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Before Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls, there was David Attenborough, a soft-spoken, jovial British man who captured the heart of the world during his decades-long career in natural history broadcasting at the B.B.C. Born in West London on May 8, 1926, Attenborough discovered his love of all things nature early on in life, as he was endlessly fascinated by the local wildlife and even spent a good portion of his teenage years biking around England in search of fossils. It seemed natural, then, that when it came time to attend university, he should opt for a degree in natural science with a focus on zoology.  

After two years of service in the Navy, Attenborough took a sharp turn in his career path and went into the world of broadcasting, even though he'd only ever seen one television show before. In 1952, he joined the B.B.C. and began writing scripts and working behind the scenes for their documentary department but was told that he was too dentally well endowed to ever go in front of the camera. As fate would have it, Attenborough quickly found himself on screen when the planned host of a show called Zoo Quest, zoologist Jack Lester, fell ill just before the first episode was set to film. Stuck in Sierra Leone with a skeleton crew and a looming deadline, Attenborough was the only person available to take the helm, and so a natural history star was born.