Peter Markham Scott
A true polymath, Peter Scott was a world-famous ornithologist, conservationist, painter, broadcaster, and sportsman. Born in London, Peter was the only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, the much-publicised 'Scott of the Antarctic' who died when Peter was 2 years old. He famously left instructions to his wife to "make the boy interested in natural history if you can. It is better than games...".
In the event, Peter happened to excel at both, pursuing numerous sporting activities alongside his wildlife work. A talented artist, his evocative paintings of birds became synonymous with his work and his first book, Morning Flight, was published by Country Life in 1935. The following year he represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal for single-handed yachting. Going on to win the prestigious Prince of Wales Cup for international 14 foot dinghies in 1937 and 1938 (and again in 1946) he immediately joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on the outbreak of war in 1939.
Spending much of the War serving on destroyers, he is partly credited with designing 'shadow camouflage' which helped disguise the shape of the ship superstructure and in 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery. Upon his return, he began work on establishing a wildfowl research organisation and in 1946 The Severn Wildfowl Trust was born. Now known as the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, it became the project with which he was most closely associated, and has since expanded into nine centres across the UK.
In the years that followed, he conducted several ornithological expeditions, travelling worldwide, and while in Iceland he married his assistant Phillipa Talbot-Ponsonby. Popularising the study of wildfowl, he became a regular on BBC radio programmes, appearing on The Naturalist and speaking on Nature Parliament during Children's Hour. In 1953, he hosted the BBC's first wildlife television programme, a monthly series that relied heavily on footage Peter had secured himself during his expeditions. Its success led to more frequent fortnightly instalments and the new name of Look. Look was immensely popular and was presented by Peter for a further 17 years, and when finally ceasing production after 26 years it brought an end to Peter's close relationship with the BBC.
A passionate conservationist, Peter was a founder and, in 1961, the first chairman of the World Wildlife Fund (now the Worldwide Fund for Nature), and designed its instantly recognisable panda logo. Working with the newly created IUCN (The World Conservation Union) he drew attention to the loss of species worldwide, helping to establish the predecessor of today's Species Survival Commission (SSC) and holding the position of chair from 1963-77. As well as founding many local and regional conservation bodies, he was the originator of the IUCN's Red Data Books in 1962, an important and up to date record of the world's threatened species.
Enjoying many diverse pursuits, Peter took up gliding and in 1963 became British champion. Liking to paint every day he was a prolific illustrator and author and even got involved in the Loch Ness Monster debate. Responsible for its scientific name Nessiteras rhombopteryx, Scott's proposal was published in the highly respected journal Nature in 1975.
Knighted in 1973, Scott was awarded numerous medals, prizes and foreign honours, and is often described as the 'father of conservation', inspiring generations to care about the environment, long before it was fashionable to do so.
Peter Scott died on the 29th August 1989.