Last Friday I had the privilege to meet Sir David Attenborough. He is not only a personal hero of mine but also to millions of viewers who have watched him bring the glory of the natural world into our living rooms. What you may not know is that David is also responsible for making the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures part of this nation’s heritage. As the first controller of BBC2, he recognized the value of broadcasting Faraday’s vision of bringing science to the masses and commissioned the first broadcasts. He even presented the Ri Christmas Lectures himself in 1973.
We chatted for about half an hour when he visited the Ri to record an interview for their new website that is launching tomorrow. David told me that doing the Ri Christmas Lectures had been the most difficult television he had ever done and that months before he was due to deliver them, he had contemplated dropping out. This was both reassuring and terrifying at the same time. After all, I consider him to be one of the giants of science broadcasting.
I introduced David to Kate, my PhD student and his eyes lit up when we started talking about her research on children’s foraging behaviour. Not surprisingly, David was well acquainted with animal foraging in the natural world and took a keen interest in Kate’s work. I had to get back to rehearsing, but we left as two very young adults who had met their childhood idol