Sir Mortimer on Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?

April 17 2015

BBC television, May 3 1956.

The programme ran from 1952 to ’59. The “chairman” (of many or most episodes) was Glyn Daniel. The producer (of much or all of the series) was David Attenborough. In each episode a different museum would challenge the studio panel with its objects.

Panel here: Professors V Gordon Childe and Seán Ó Ríordáin and the vain Sir Mortimer Wheeler.

Challenger: National Museum of Prague, in the silent person of Dr Jiří Neústupný. Mary Adams of the BBC went to Prague to meet him and bring him to London. For many episodes, it was Attenborough who made the visits. This, incidentally, was broadcast before the Hungarian Revolution.

Attenborough is already arranging ambitious travel for the sake of a television arts programme. He would bring this to a new level when he commissioned Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation a little over a decade later.

This was the year in which, as a result of appearances on this programme, Mortimer Wheeler, who was not a pop singer, became Television Personality of the Year.

Ó Ríordáin died of cancer in the following year. Was he related to the poet? An appreciation by Glyn Daniel is here (JSTOR).

Childe was the author of a Pelican that was in the bedrooms or beside the fireplace of every educated household in England in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s: What Happened in History. Less than eighteen months after this, he jumped to his death off Govett’s Leap in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

2 Responses to “Sir Mortimer on Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?”


  1. […] Sir Mortimer on Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? […]


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