Naturalist, broadcaster, presenter, and national treasure Sir David Attenborough turned 90 this year. Working for the BBC for over 50 years, his documentaries have entertained and educated for decades, and have inspired countless budding zoologists, marine biologists and natural scientists over the years. His untiring curiosity and enthusiasm, combined with his soothing, authoritative voice have made him both an icon of British television and a treasured figure in the imagination of the public.
I remember being fascinated by his documentaries from a young age, and I’m sure there are millions who feel the same. Particularly for children with a natural curiosity and love of animals, his documentaries were a window into the vast richness of the natural world; it’s extreme, wildly varying landscapes, the infinite variety and complexity of animal life, the fascinating processes of evolution, and our relationship as human beings with the natural world. Hearing Attenborough describe the ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest, the hunting techniques of a pack of wolves, or the migratory patterns of a pod of humpback whales, there are few who wouldn’t find themselves rapt.
What particularly struck me about recent tributes to Attenborough were the amount of scientists for whom his programmes had been the catalyst for their careers. His programmes, both in their enthusiasm and the world of natural science that they open up to the viewer, have not only inspired casual interest in the animal kingdom; they have been an influence on generations of scientists across many disciplines for many years.
Watching Attenborough’s most recent documentary, ‘Great Barrier Reef’, is was clear that his age had not dulled his enthusiasm one bit. Observing the reef at night in a tiny, two-man submarine, his excitement was barely contained as he described to the viewer the strange, rich ecosystem we were seeing. May his calming voice and boundless fascination grace our screens for years to come.
[Clare Patterson – @clurrpatterson]