|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|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
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,
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
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
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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