Amazing photos of Sir David Attenborough as a young man to celebrate his 93rd birthday

8 May 2019, 10:52

Sir David Attenborough pictured at BBC Two on 5th March 1965
Sir David Attenborough pictured at BBC Two on 5th March 1965. Picture: Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

Sir David Attenborough is 93-years-old today and to celebrate we look back to the start of zoologist's career and the children whose hearts and minds he touched in the '50s - an age when animals were a mystery to most.

Born in Isleworth, Middlesex on May 8, 1926 a young David Attenborough spent his childhood collecting, fossils, stones and natural specimens building up a "mini museum" collection by the time he was just 7-years-old.

After winning a scholarship in 1945 to study Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and serving in the Royal Navy for two years, the young nature enthusiast joined the BBC in 1950.

Despite not owning a television and have seen only one TV programme in his life, David applied for a job at the BBC, telling the Financial Times in 2018 that he wished he had kept the letter he received back from the corporation.

Sir David Attenborough with two ring-tailed lemurs during a Christmas lecture at London zoo
Sir David Attenborough with two ring-tailed lemurs during a Christmas lecture at London zoo. Picture: Getty
Attenborough And Reflection
Attenborough And Reflection. Picture: Getty

“I wish I still had it," he said. "It said something like, ‘we’ve got this new thing called television in Alexandra Palace. A lot of people are quite rude about it, but we think it might be quite interesting. Would you be interested?’”

Sir David joined the BBC's new television branch and produced and presented the three-part series Animal Patterns featuring animals from London Zoo, going on to present Zoo Quest in 1954.

Watch The Queen make Sir David Attenborough laugh with Donald Trump joke

Not just a presenter however, Sir David was made controller of BBC Two in 1965 and completely changed the face of the channel.

Responsible for commissioning iconic shows such as Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Money Programme he was promoted to the lofty position of Director Of Programme at the BBC before leaving in 1972 to make factual programmes full-time.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne meet naturalist Sir David Attenborough at Lime Grove Studios on the 4th January, 1958
Prince Charles and Princess Anne meet naturalist Sir David Attenborough at Lime Grove Studios on the 4th January, 1958. Picture: Getty
Attenborough introduces a Capybara to children Royal Geographical Society in Kensington Gore, London, 2nd January 1956
Attenborough introduces a Capybara to children Royal Geographical Society in Kensington Gore, London, 2nd January 1956. Picture: Getty

With characteristic self-depreciation, Sir David told The FT: “Just between you and me, making television programmes about animals is not very difficult.

You just have to point the camera in the right direction and make sure the lens cap is off.”

Read more: Sir David Attenborough is the public's top choice to be on a £20 note

Looking back on his early work he says: “The quality of those films we made in the 1950s now looks terrible. But nobody in Britain had ever seen an armadillo or a pangolin.

"Nobody! Honestly, all you had to be was marginally competent.”

Scroll down to see more amazing images of Sir David Attenborough's early career...

David Attenborough shows 12-year-old Patrick Flynn from Kent a Llama called Charlie, at London Zoo
David Attenborough shows 12-year-old Patrick Flynn from Kent a Llama called Charlie, at London Zoo. Picture: Getty
Sir David Attenborough pictured at BBC Two on 5th March 1965
Sir David Attenborough pictured at BBC Two on 5th March 1965. Picture: Getty
5th March 1965:  BBC Television controllers (from left) David Attenborough, Michael Peacock, Huw Wheldon and Kenneth Adam at BBC TV Centre.
5th March 1965: BBC Television controllers (from left) David Attenborough, Michael Peacock, Huw Wheldon and Kenneth Adam at BBC TV Centre. Picture: Getty
4th March 1965:  British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough after he was appointed the new head of BBC 2.
4th March 1965: British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough after he was appointed the new head of BBC 2. Picture: Getty
Sir David Attenborough visiting Sydney to launch his book The Living Planet.David Attenborough gets a closer look at an Australian pygmy goanna.
Sir David Attenborough gets a closer look at an Australian pygmy goanna. Picture: Getty