Spirit of nature

GILBERT WHITE, left, was the spiritual ancestor of Sir David Attenborough, the prototype of the popular British naturalist.

As a curate, he spent years observing the wildlife in his Hampshire parish, but it was not until he was 69 that he published The Natural History of Selborne, in 1788. The book,much loved and still in print, is written as a series of letters to fellow naturalists Thomas Pennant and Daines Barrington.