Sir David Attenborough — things you didn't know about the legendary broadcaster

Sir David Attenborough is a legendary broadcaster and a natural historian.
Sir David Attenborough has seen more of the natural world than anyone else. (Image credit: Getty)

Sir David Attenborough has had one of the most incredible careers which has spanned over seven decades and left him considered a national treasure in the UK. 

Hundreds of millions of people across the world have enjoyed his documentaries on the plants and animals of the natural world, and he received a knighthood for his work in 1985, granting him the title of Sir David Attenborough.  

After narrating more than 80 programmes over the years, including most recently A Perfect Planet, Sir David has seen more of the natural world than anyone else and has one of the most recognisable voices in the world — and arguably one of the most soothing, too. 

After being born in Isleworth, Middlesex, he grew up on the campus of University College, Leicester where his father was principle. In the 1940s he spent time in the Navy after being called up for National Service and was stationed in Pembrokeshire, where he later returned to spend his family holidays. 

But what else is there to learn about the much-loved presenter? Here are a few things you might not know.

1. He is believed to be one of the most travelled people in history 

It's not hugely surprising that after all the award-winning documentaries that Sir David has presented, he is one of the most well-travelled people on the planet. But one amazing fact is that he travelled a whopping 256,000 miles for his The Life of Birds documentary — that's the same as travelling around the world ten times. 

Sir David Attenborough is a legendary broadcaster and a natural historian.

Sir David Attenborough has become a national treasure thanks to his much-loved documentaries and books.  (Image credit: Getty)

2. Elephants are the scariest animal he's encountered.

Of all the species Sir David has come face-to-face with over the course of his career, he says the most terrifying moment was with an elephant. During an interview on BBC Radio One, he recalled the scariest moment in his career: "Being charged at by an elephant was terrifying. They come running at you at the speed of a motor car, ears flapping and trunk up. 

"But of course people who are experts in these things know perfectly well that elephants make dummy charges. And that was a dummy charge, just saying 'don't get any nearer' and I didn't!"

3. He quit Instagram after only two months.

When David joined Instagram in November last year, he broke Jennifer Aniston's record for getting one million followers in the shortest space of time — a record that has since been broken by Harry Potter star Rupert Grint. However, his huge social media success hasn't persuaded Sir David Attenborough to stick with it. 

Despite his Instagram account still being live, he has admitted that he won't be updating it any time soon because he has enough problems dealing with with post! He told the BBC: "For a limited period of time I did contribute to Instagram, but I'm off now and I don't intend to go back."

4. He has got a great advice on saving the planet.

We all know there are things we could be doing in our everyday life to make he planet a little cleaner... but David says that combatting climate change is really very simple. His motto is clear... "Don't waste things," he told Radio One. "Don't waste food, don't waste electricity, don't waste gas. Don't waste paper. All of those things make demands on the planet. If we all lived more economically, the world would be a much better place."

5. He has a record-breaking number of University degrees.

Sir David has 32 honorary degrees from universities, that is more than anyone else in the world. 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 Antiquaries.

6. He wishes he could fly. 

Sir David told that if he could have one superpower, it would be flying... "It would be wonderful, wouldn't it? Not gliding, mind, I want powered flight, please. I don't just want to float around when the wind is right. I want to be able to just stretch my wings and take off. 

"The nearest you can get to flying is underwater swimming. The ability to move in three dimensions is what you experience when you are scuba diving. But to do that up in the sky, to be able to take off and fly and have a quick look at the Cotswolds would be fantastic."

7. He only has one regret in life. 

Despite experiencing the most amazing life, Sir David has admitted that he does have one regret and that's the amount of time he spent away from home working while his children were young. He told Radio Times: "I really shouldn't regret anything, because I've been so unbelievably lucky. But if I do have regrets, it is that when my children were young I was away for three months at a time. 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."

Sir David Attenborough's fact file. 

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the actor.

How old is he?

Sir David Attenborough is 94 years old. He was born on 8th May 1926. 

Is he married? 

Sir David Attenborough married Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel in 1950 and the pair remained married until she sadly died in 1997.

Does he have children?

Sir David Attenborough has two children called Susan and Robert. 

Where was he born?

Sir David Attenborough was born in Isleworth, Middlesex. 

How tall is he?

Sir David Attenborough is 1.78 metres tall.

Instagram: @davidattenborough 

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.