Many of the greatest communicators have been naturalists. E.O. Wilson has his ants and Jared Diamond his birds. Oliver Sacks studied ferns as well as brains. The views of these thinkers were opened up by their exploration of the biosphere, enabling them to expose that vision of the world. One of the greatest naturalists of all is not a scholar in the traditional sense, but a broadcaster. To mark the 90th birthday on 8 May of documentary pioneer David Attenborough, I was given the honor of naming a new species of dragonfly — his favorite insect — for him (see ‘David’s dragonfly’). Attenborough’s many hundreds of hours of exquisite television are a reminder that a primary reason to study nature is enlightenment. I am, of course, not the first to name a species for him — at least 15 animals and plants now bear his name. But doing so has led me to reflect on why we need naturalists like Attenborough today more than ever.