Happy 98th Sir David Attenborough!

Sir David Attenborough at BBC Showcase Liverpool. Photo: Bill Young

Sir David Attenborough, the one-time director of BBC Programming in the 60s and 70s turned biologist, natural historian, and writer, turned 98 years young on Wednesday (8 May). Beginning with Life on Earth in 1979, Attenborough set about creating a body of work which became a benchmark of quality in wildlife film-making, and influenced a generation of documentary film-makers. The series established many of the hallmarks of the BBC’s natural history output. 

Five years after the success of Life on Earth, the BBC released The Living Planet. This time, Attenborough built his series around the theme of ecology, the adaptations of living things to their environment. It was another critical and commercial success, generating huge international sales for the BBC. In 1990, The Trials of Life completed the original Life trilogy, looking at animal behaviour through the different stages of life.

Attenborough’s endlessly prolific ‘Life’ theme continued into the 90s with Life in the Freezer (Antarctica), The Private Life of Plants (using time-lapse photography to speed up growth), The Life of Birds (bird behavior) and Life of Mammals (behavior of nocturnal mammals).

As the clock turned to the 2000s, Sir David continued his collaboration with the BBC Natural History Unit to create The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, the first BBC wildlife series to be shot in high definition. If that wasn’t enough to solidify Attenborough’s place as a national treasure in the UK (even though he doesn’t embrace that label), there was Life, a ten-part series focussing on extraordinary animal behaviour, Frozen Planet (2011), Planet Earth II (2016), Blue Planet II (2017), Perfect Planet (2021) and Green Planet (2022).

In his spare time, Attenborough narrated all 253 episodes of Wildlife on One for BBC One (1977-2005) and 50 episodes of Natural World, BBC Two’s flagship wildlife series. Its forerunner, The World About Us, was created by Attenborough in 1969, as a vehicle for colour television.

To celebrate, Transport for London is seeking 1 million likes to their post below and they would consider changing the name of the Borough Station to Sir David Attenborough Station (or, maybe not).

Happy 98th, Sir David Attenborough!

In: Odds & Sods