Press release issued 25 September 2009
Last night [24 September] Sir David Attenborough received a standing ovation after delivering a lecture on Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise to a capacity audience at the University. More than 850 people packed the Great Hall in the Wills Memorial Building to hear the legendary and much-loved broadcaster give an illustrated talk about one of his great heroes, British anthropologist, biologist, explorer and geographer Alfred Russel Wallace, one of the early proponents of the theory of natural selection.
After the lecture, Sir David answered questions on subjects as diverse as controlling population growth, the ethics of eco-tourism, time travel and breeding birds of paradise in captivity. He also delighted the audience by recounting some of the highlights of his 50-year career.
In the audience was Caroline Wedgwood, a biology teacher at Redland High, whose six times great-grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood (of pottery fame), was Charles Darwin’s grandfather. Darwin also married a Wedgwood: his cousin Emma.
The lecture was part of the University’s ongoing centenary lecture series and year-long programme of centenary celebrations and was organised in association with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting, which is currently taking place at the University. The Society, which was established in 1940, is holding this year’s meeting outside the Americas for the first time in its 69-year history and selected Bristol because of the Society's close ties with the University’s prestigious Department of Earth Sciences.
Sir David’s distinguished career in broadcasting spans more than 50 years. In the 1960s and 70s he served as controller of BBC Two, then director of programmes for the BBC. He is best known for writing and presenting the ten series of Life, which were made in conjunction with the Bristol-based BBC Natural History Unit over a period of almost 30 years. He has also narrated several major series, including The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
A film of the lecture is available on the centenary lectures website.
Sir David Attenborough
Image by Dave Pratt