Sir David Attenborough and the University of Leicester

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College House, Sir David Attenborough's childhood home.

Sir David Attenborough has always had a special connection with the University of Leicester. At the age of five he moved onto the campus of what was then University College Leicester when his father Frederick Attenborough was appointed Principal.

David grew up on the campus, with his bothers Richard and John, and was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys next door (now Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College). The family lived in College House, which is now part of our Department of Mathematics.

The College campus must have been an exciting place for the Attenborough brothers to play and explore. At that time the Fielding Johnson Building still retained some of the original padded cells from when it was a Victorian lunatic asylum, and on one occasion Richard mischievously locked his brother inside one. It could also be profitable. When the Zoology Department needed newts, David went pond-dipping for amphibians and sold them to the College at three pence each.

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Richard and David Attenborough receiving their Honorary Degrees from the University of Leicester in 1970.

In 1945, David left Leicester when he won a scholarship to Cambridge. Six years later his father retired as College Principal; the Attenborough Tower is named in his honour, as is the University’s Attenborough Arboretum. Sir David has returned to the University on numerous occasions, most notably in 1970 when he and his brother received Honorary Degrees, and in 2006 when the two were named Honorary Distinguished Fellows – the University’s highest honour.

Sir David last visited the campus in 2010 for a BBC 2 documentary Attenborough’s Journey.

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