Animal, Vegetable, Mineral



Lionel Hale (first two shows)

Glyn Daniel (1952-59)

(but see Trivia below)

Prof. Barry Cunliffe (1971)

Magnus Magnusson (1983)


Regular panellists: Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Prof. Thomas Bodkin, Hugh Short, Dr. Julian Huxley, Adrian Digby, Norman Cook, Dr. W. E. Swinton, Jacquetta Hawkes.


BBC Television Service, 23 October 1952 to 18 March 1959 (116 episodes in 7 series)

as A.V.M.?: BBC2, 30 May to 29 August 1971 (14 episodes in 1 series)

BBC1 North East, 17 June 1983


A popular panel game in which archaeologists, art historians and natural history experts were asked to identify interesting objects from museums and university collections. Up to three points were awarded for each item, with the winning line being 20 points in the half hour programme.

Key moments

There were a few uneasy moments during naturalist Julian Huxley's first appearance on the programme, when he failed to identify the egg of the Giant West African Snail, an object familiar to generations of zoology students. Certain that it was the egg of some sort of reptile, he even bet host Glyn Daniel five pounds that he was right. He wasn't, and he never paid up on the bet either.


Nora Wood


This was one of the programmes commissioned by the "Talks Department" of the BBC. This was a tactical move, as it was one of a raft of programmes introduced to increase viewing hours ahead of the imminent arrival of ITV in 1955.

In the early series, the man responsible for selecting the items to be shown to the panel was none other than the young David Attenborough, who also acted as camera director on the show.

Archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, for many viewers the star of the show.

As a one-off, the 9 December 1954 edition was billed as a "transatlantic exchange", featuring a UK panel in the first half, and then a recording of a panel from the US equivalent What in the World facing the same items in the second.

The tables were turned for the 1956 christmas special, when Glyn Daniel and Mortimer Wheeler selected the items to be put to a panel comprising David Attenborough (by then a TV star in his own right as host of "Zoo Quest"), series creator Paul Johnstone and producer Mary Adams.

TV Brain tells us that nearly all of the episodes from both the original and BBC2 series have been wiped from the archives with only 5 of them surviving. These are the episodes that survived:

Series 3: Episode 2 (which can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer)
Series 4: Episode 17 (which can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer) and Episode 21
Series 7: Episode 1 (which can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer)
BBC2 series: Episode 11

The show was originally going to be hosted by Lionel Hale who hosted the first two shows, but Glyn Daniel soon took over for the entire run; when he was unable to host the show on a few occasions, John Betjeman, Maxwell Knight, Rupert Bruce-Mitford and Reginald Gamble stood-in.

The 1983 one-off was made to mark the 150th anniversary of the Durham University Museum. The panel on that occasion were David Bellamy, Rosemary Cramp and Louis Allen.

Theme music

J.S. Bach's prelude to Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir, BWV 29. The same tune is perhaps better known as the prelude to Bach's Partita No.3 for Violin, BMV 1006.1. A jazz version by Jacques Loussier is also the theme for Counterpoint.

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry


Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Thomas Bodkin and Hugh Short on a 1958 edition.
If you don't want to know the answer, look away five seconds ago.
A model icthyosaur, a genuine Glyn Daniel, and a losing score.

See also


The Object in Question

Not what you're looking for? You may be thinking of Twenty Questions.


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