Last Friday, while the staff of Scienceline was at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Boston, science in general and science journalism in particular got some sad news. Sir David Attenborough, the legendary director of such historic nature films as Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives and Planet Earth, announced that his next documentary, “Life In Cold Blood”, would be his last.
Attenborough is without a doubt one of, if not the, most important nature documentary directors of our time. His films set the gold standard for nature television. His “Life” series in particular went above and beyond in highlighting the vast biodiversity on our planet. Without Sir Attenborough, there would have been no Microcosmos or March of the Penguins. On a more personal note, the episode of “Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives” that featured a robotic pterosaur greatly influenced my own career and research.
While I’m sad that I can’t expect any more amazing, sprawling documentaries like Blue Planet or The First Eden, all is not lost as Attenborough hinted that he will still produce some one-off shows and shorter series in the future. I’d like to take this moment to reflect on the career of a great filmmaker, environmental activist, and in a sense, science journalist with a selection of my three favorite scenes from his documentaries. One is from Blue Planet, one is from The Life of Birds, and one is from Planet Earth. Watch the clips, watch the movies, watch the series, I’d love to hear what you all think of them.