Sir David Atten borough’s career has lasted over 60 years. He’s a true national treasure, but there’s a lot about him you might not have known!
Here are 20 things that you probably didn’t know about him…
1. Sir David has a Pacemaker.
He had a pacemaker fitted in 2013 because his insurance company wouldn’t insure him to go down under to attend a series of seminars unless her had something to monitor his heart.
“I had a funny five minutes. No more than that. So they give you this thing, it’s called a pacemaker,” he explained during an interview on The Jonathan Ross Show. “And all it does, if your heart suddenly decides it’s going to skip a beat or something, it kicks in. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. And I don’t think it has.”
2. He does have a least favourite animal.
He might have a fascination with animals, but David isn’t a fan of rats. They’re his least favourite animal.
“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.”
3. His favourite filming location is central Europe.
“Because I know it least and because I can get decent food and a reasonable bottle of cheap wine,”
Turns out he likes his creature comforts as much as the next person.
4. We can thank David for televised Snooker.
During his early TV years, David was responsible for masterminding the concept of televised snooker and he also introduced the first colour television.
I didn’t think it was possible to love this man more really….
5. David & the murder mystery.
A skull was found in the back of David’s garden in 2011 by contractors who were excavating for an extension on his Richmond home. It solved one of London’s most gruesome murders 132 years earlier, in 1879, when a housekeeper killed and decapitated her boss, Julia Martha Thomas. The housekeeper, Kate Webster, chopped up and boiled the body and fed pieces to nearby children. Thomas’ head was never found UNTIL 2011.
6. The family tragedy.
His brother, Richard Attenborough lost three generations of women close to him to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. His daughter, Jane, his grand-daughter, Lucy and Jane’s mother-in-law all sadly died when the tsunami struck Khao Lak in Thailand. Sadly, Lord Richard also passed away, aged 90 in 2014.
7. David’s wife.
Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel used to always pick David up from the airport after filming, but sadly while David was filming in New Zealand, in 1997, she collapsed in their kitchen with a brain haemorrhage. He flew home straight away to find her in the hospital still alive but in a coma. He spoke to her and held her hand.
Sir David wrote in his memoir, Life On Air: “She did, and gave my hand a squeeze”.
He spent the night with her and she passed away the next day.
“The focus of my life, the anchor had gone … Now I was lost,” he wrote.
8. David’s beliefs.
Sir David is agnostic, believing the existence of greater power, such as God, cannot be proved or disproved.
“While it would be unscientific not to acknowledge that there are areas we don’t know anything about, it’s equally unscientific to say, ‘I will therefore believe there are little green men living on an asteroid whizzing round the world or, indeed, there’s an old guy with a long grey beard sitting on a cloud’,” he said during an interview with the Daily Mail.
9. He’s allowed to fly business class.
When he turned 75, the BBC told him he was allowed to fly business class where ever he went. Before that, he used to fly economy unless him entire camera crew were also upgraded.
10. He was told he shouldn’t work on TV because his teeth were too big.
“I discovered 40 years later that they had said of me as a trainee: ‘He could be a perfectly pleasant chap, might be a perfectly good producer, but he shouldn’t be used again as an interviewer on camera because his teeth are too big.’ My teeth have worn down since then, though,” he told the Daily Mail.
11. He’s not a big fan of George W Bush.
During an interview with BBC Wildlife Magazine, Sir David named George W Bush as the era’s top “environmental villain”.
“American presidents have got a great tradition of this. Was it Ronald Reagan who said, ‘If you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all’?” he said.
12. The first time he tried Scuba diving was the moment that stands out most to him throughout his career.
Sir David loved “the unbelievable fact that you can move in three dimensions,” he told the Daily Mail. “That minute, when you suddenly move your weight, do that with your fin and know you’re going to move off. Suddenly, there are all these extraordinary creatures — wonderful shrimps or shoals of triggerfish or the looming shape of a shark. It’s an individual communion. That’s really revelatory and it’s part of our world”.
13. What if David hadn’t have gone on TV?
If David hadn’t have gone on TV, he said he would have tried teaching.
14. His favourite holiday spot is West Wales.
Not the Galapagos? Nope, just 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.
15. He holds more degrees than anyone else in the world.
He has 32 honorary degrees from British Universities which is more than any other person. He 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 Antiquaries.
16. David and his favourite blue shirt.
He once forgot to take his trademark blue shirt with him on location in the middle of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland. He used to take the shirt everywhere with him & felt lost without it. Luckily, he found a clothing shop that somehow stocked a blue shirt so he bought it. Unfortunately, when he put it on he realised the buttons went down the side of the shirt & not up the front because it was a woman’s shirt. He still wore it though….
17. David’s fan mail.
He gets hundreds of letters a week off fans but he particularly loves getting them from kids.
“There is not a child born who is not fascinated by the natural world,” he says during an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald Sun. “I get about five or six a day of these and after a week that adds up, 30 or 40 letters a week — and they are just from kids,” he said. “The standard question they ask is ‘what is your favourite animal? Mine is a bunny and his name is Jimmy,’ they write, you know that kind of thing. But then in among them are some very hard questions that make me think and I have to go and check if my answers are right, you know questions like ‘why do we need to go to sleep?’, ‘Do fish sleep?’ — which they do, by the way.”
18. His biggest regret is the time he spent away from home.
He’s seen more of the world than most people and he’s had the chance to visit some of the most wonderful sights but David revealed that the one regret of his career was the time he spent away from his family.
“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.”
19. David would reincarnate as a sloth.
He revealed that he would like to come back as a sloth if he could. He’s always had a soft spot for three-toed sloths, which he encountered while filming in British Guiana.
20. His first pet was a salamander.
His father gave him a salamander for his 8th birthday. David went on to give his own son a fire salamander for his 8th birthday too.
21. His childhood hero was an American Ranger.
His hero growing up was Ernest Thompson Seton who was a ranger on the prairies of California. He was also the founder of the youth programme Woodcraft Indians and the one founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts of America.
22. David most wants to go to the Gobi Desert.
He’s been to pretty much everywhere in the world, but David still hasn’t been to the Gobi Desert. He said it’s on the top of his bucket list & he would love to hunt for fossils at the centre of the Gobi.
23. If he could have any superpower, it would be to fly.
He wants to be able to stretch his wings and fly about.
24. He doesn’t go away anywhere without his front door key.
25. He watches other people’s nature programmes, but not his own.
He said he watches his own programmes 50 times before they’re released but never actually watches them at home. He finds it interesting to watch other peoples programmes though.
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