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Peter Markham Scott

 (1909 - 1989)
Peter Markham Scott was active/lived in United States, United Kingdom, England.  Peter Scott is known for wildlife painting.

Peter Markham Scott

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Peter Markham Scott
Sir Peter Markham Scott was a naturalist, conservationist, artist and author whose abiding passion was wildlife.   He travelled the world painting rare birds, then later founded the Severn Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust), and co-founded the World Wildlife Fund (now the World Wide Fund for Nature). Described as the 'father of conservation', he led a campaign for endangered wildlife that captured the imagination of a generation and inspired many to care about the environment long before it was fashionable to do so.

Scott was born in London, the only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott and sculptor Kathleen Bruce.  He was only two years old when his father died. Robert Scott, in a last letter to his wife, advised her to "make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games." He was named after Sir Clements Markham, mentor of Scott's polar expeditions, and his godfather was J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan.

He was educated at Oundle School and Trinity College, Cambridge, initially reading Natural Sciences but graduating in the History of Art in 1931.

He inherited his artistic talent from his mother, and had his first exhibition in London in 1933.  His wealthy background allowed him to follow his interests in art, wildlife and many sports, including sailing and ice skating.  In 1936 Berlin Games, he represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at sailing in the Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal.

During World War II, Scott served in the Royal Navy, emulating his father.  He served first in destroyers in the North Atlantic but later moved to commanding the First (and only) Squadron of Steam Gun Boats against German E-boats in the English Channel.  He is also partly credited with designing 'shadow camouflage', which disguised the look of ship superstructure.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.

He stood as a Conservative candidate unsuccessfully in the 1945 general election in Wembley North.  In 1948, he founded the organisation with which he was ever afterwards closely associated, the Severn Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) with its headquarters at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.

In the years that followed, he led ornithological expeditions worldwide, and became a television personality, popularising the study of wildfowl and wetlands.  His BBC natural history series, Look, ran from 1955 to 1981 and made him a household name.

He wrote and illustrated several books on the subject, including his autobiography, The Eye of the Wind (1961).  In the 1950s, he also appeared regularly on BBC radio's Children's Hour, in the series, "Nature Parliament".

He married Elizabeth Jane Howard in 1942.  A daughter, Nicola, was born a year later.  They divorced in 1951, and he married an assistant, Philippa Talbot-Ponsonby, while on an expedition to Iceland in search of the breeding grounds of the Pink-footed Goose.  A daughter, Dafila, was born later in the same year. (Dafila is the old scientific name for a pintail).  She, too, is now an artist, painting birds.

Scott took up gliding in 1956 and became a British champion in 1963.  He was chairman of the British Gliding Association (BGA) for two years from 1968 and was president of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Gliding Club.  He was responsible for involving Prince Philip in gliding; the Prince is still patron of the BGA.

Scott also continued with his love of sailing, skippering the 12 metre yacht Sovereign in the 1964 challenge for the America's Cup, which was held by USA.  Sovereign suffered a whitewash 4-0 defeat in a one-sided competition where the American boat was seen to be the faster design.

From 1973 to 1983, Scott was Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. He died in 1989 just before what would have been his 80th birthday.

In June 2004, Scott and Sir David Attenborough were jointly profiled in the second of a three part BBC Two series, The Way We Went Wild, about television wildlife presenters and were described as being largely responsible for the way that the British and much of the world views wildlife.

Scott's life was also the subject of a BBC Four documentary called Peter Scott - A Passion for Nature, produced in 2006 by Available Light Productions, Bristol.
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About  Peter Markham Scott

Born:  1909 - London, England
Died:   1989
Known for:  wildlife painting