As his 90th birthday approaches, tributes to Sir David Attenborough and his incredible career are coming in thick and fast. This week alone, Aardman Animations released a Creature Comforts homage to the wildlife documentary-maker, and it was announced that Boaty McBoatFace – the new polar research ship named through public vote – is now going to be called the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
In a career spanning 7 decades, Sir David has provided the world with unparalleled commentary on the planet’s plants and animals in documentaries enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people the world over, showing us everything from man’s close relationship to the apes to the stunning depths of Australia’s coral reefs.
And who could forget THAT voice? His soothing tone is almost as famous as his broadcasting, not only heard on his documentaries, but also a recent hilarious voiceover for Adele’s Hello. His wise, gentle voice has even inspired a typeface – last year, it was reported than Miles Newlyn, designer of logos for brands such as Honda, Tate Modern and EE, had created TP Atten. “While watching one of Sir David’s programmes, it struck me that his voice has precisely what I wanted to convey with a typeface,” said Newlyn. “As a typical British person brought up on Attenborough’s natural history programmes, he and his voice have become integral to my love of the English language.”
We couldn’t agree more. Throughout his illustrious career, Sir David has made tremendous contributions to British television and the natural sciences. Think you know David Attenborough? He may have appeared in over 80 broadcasts over the years, but here are 6 things you might not know about the wildlife documentary-maker…
1. He doesn’t like rats
“I don’t like rats, I’ve never made a secret of that – they are the ultimate horrible thing,” he told the BBC. “For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century I had a very bad stomach upset in India. I went and sat on the loo and got rid of the entire contents of my stomach, as one does. Well, I was sitting there … and a rat came up from between my legs from the loo. He was wet, I have to tell you.”
2. He created televised snooker
During his time as director of programming for BBC Television in the 60s and 70s, David Attenborough introduced the coverage of snooker as the Beeb moved into colour broadcasting.
3. His favourite holiday is in West Wales
“In the 1940s, I was in the Navy and stationed in Pembrokeshire, and we used to take our children there on holiday,” he told the BBC.
His biggest regret is the time he spent away from home
He’s seen some of the world’s most beautiful sights but Sir David has revealed the one regret of his career is the time he spent away from his family. In an interview with Radio Times he said: “I really shouldn’t regret anything, because I’ve been just so unbelievably lucky. But if I do have regrets, it is that when my children were as young as your children, I was away for three months at a time.”
He said that his late wife, Jane, had always been so understanding but added: “If you have a child of six or eight and you miss three months of his or her life, it’s irreplaceable; you miss something. Perhaps you can’t have your cake and eat it.”
5. He holds more degrees than anyone else in the world
David has accumulated 32 honorary degrees from British universities,
more than any other person. He has also received the Honorary Fellow
title from Clare College, Cambridge, the Zoological Society of London,
the Linnean Society, the Institute of Biology and the Society of
6. He’s down to earth
It’s hardly surprising that the nature lover isn’t high maintenance. When Sir David reached the age of 75, he was told by the BBC that he could fly business class. Prior to that, he would always fly economy class and refuse to be upgraded unless his camera crew were also upgraded.