Catalogue description Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Peter Markham Scott FRS

This record is held by Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives

Details of NCUACS 87.8.99
Reference: NCUACS 87.8.99
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Peter Markham Scott FRS

























The papers in the collection cover the period 1916-1993. They are arranged in twelve sections.


Section A, Biographical, is extensive. There is a considerable volume of material covering the earlier part of Scott's life (pre-1940) including his schooldays, his periods studying at Cambridge and at Munich, and his years at East Lighthouse, 1933-1940. Some of this material was assembled by Elspeth Huxley for her biography of Scott and includes reminiscences sent to her by his contemporaries. A record of Scott's wildfowling excursions is provided by his 'wildfowling diaries', dating from his Cambridge years, and by other material. There is personal correspondence with a variety of friends and colleagues, dating from most periods of his life, and a large body of family correspondence and papers which relates to several individuals, in particular his mother Kathleen. In addition there are papers documenting his brief involvement in politics immediately after World War Two; many articles, including interviews, obituaries and tributes; papers relating to honours and awards; and engagement diaries.


Section B, World War Two, principally consists of material documenting Scott's war service in the Royal Navy, from his initial appointment to HMS Broke to his commands in the Steam Gunboat Flotilla of the Coastal Forces, and papers relating to his writings on the war, mostly to The Battle of the Narrow Seas (1945). Included in the war service papers is material relating to Scott's work on camouflage design, to his interviews with a captured German naval officer, and photographs and sketches.


Section C, Nature conservation and research, chiefly comprises administrative papers of the Wildfowl Trust, covering the Trust's operations during Scott's life, and a large sequence of papers (named 'Other Organisations and Topics') which reflect his associations with a great diversity of organisations, campaigns and issues, arranged alphabetically. Included here is significant documentation of his work for the World Wildlife Fund, mostly correspondence with prominent WWF officers and correspondence and papers concerning fundraising, in particular Scott's visits to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1970s. A large group of papers relates to Scott's involvement in the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau Ltd and includes drafts of his articles on the evidence for the existence of the 'Loch Ness Monster' and the associated scientific nomenclature. There are also correspondence and papers covering the Hawaiian Goose breeding project, his early years as Chairman of the Survival Services Commission of IUCN, and his involvement in the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau. Also found in the 'Other Organisations and Topics' sequence is correspondence with prominent naturalists such as Richard Fitter, Gavin Maxwell and Gerald Durrell. Small groups of papers document Scott's research on chameleons and reef fish. Concluding the section is material relating to the Peter Scott Memorial Fund for Conservation which was launched soon after his death.


Section D, Travel, principally comprises correspondence and papers covering Scott's extensive foreign travel (some UK travel is included) from 1945 to 1989. Included are manuscript speech notes, conference papers, reports and photographs. There is also a group of correspondence concerning Scott's association with Lindblad Travel Inc. and a series of itineraries, most of which are annotated.


Section E, Publications, presents a chronological series of drafts of various books (some co-authored) and articles by Scott and of his forewords and contributions to other publications. The principal subjects covered are ornithology and conservation, including the Wildfowl Trust; also included are articles on gliding, contributions to publications about his father, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, and unidentified drafts. Among the earlier drafts are those of the unpublished account of his expedition to the Caspian Sea in 1938 and of large parts of the books Wild Chorus (Country Life, 1938) and A Thousand Geese (Collins, 1953). Some of his original artwork for Lemuel by Edith R. Gregorson (1947) also survives. There are also significant correspondence and papers relating to his autobiography The Eye of the Wind (Hodder & Stoughton) 1961, Fishwatchers Guide to West Atlantic Coral Reefs, 1972 (by Charles C.G. Chaplin, illustrated by Scott), and to Travel Diaries of a Naturalist (Collins) 1983-1987. Also in this section is editorial correspondence, arranged by publisher or publication, and off-prints and re-prints.


Section F, Radio and television, is organised in three sub-sections: BBC, Anglia Television and Other Broadcasting Work, the latter being slight. The BBC material covers the period 1939-1989 and consists of draft scripts and outlines for programmes, correspondence, and papers relating to contracts and payments. Among the scripts are some from the radio series, Nature Parliament and Birds in Britain, the television series Look and miscellaneous broadcasts, including Scott's commentary for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth in 1947. The Anglia material is much smaller, principally being correspondence and Survival Anglia Ltd Board of Directors papers.


Section G, Lectures, speeches and addresses, comprises drafts of speeches given at a variety of conferences and gatherings, 1948-1989, and related correspondence. Included are lectures and speeches given at conferences on environmental issues, World Wildlife Fund and Wildfowl Trust functions and academic institutions. Some of these highlight Scott's prominent role in the communication of conservation issues to a wider audience.


Section H, Societies and organisations, illustrates the diversity of Scott's commitments outside his main activities and interests. However, it only provides significant documentation of his involvement in a few of some sixty organisations in which he held an official position or was otherwise associated. By far the largest group of papers relates to his period as Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. Most of this covers general university business, though there is material relating to his election, including letters of congratulation.


Section J, Painting, reflects Scott's vast output of paintings and drawings over a period of some six decades and covers most aspects of the marketing of his works and associated reproductions. The bulk of the papers are organised in three sub-sections: Exhibitions and Sales, Commissions, and Reproductions. Significant groups of papers relate to Arthur Ackermann & Son Ltd, The Society of Wildlife Artists, Falcon Arts Inc. (Scott's agents in the USA) and the 'Peter Scott at 80 - a Retrospective' exhibition (1989-1990).


Section K, Yachting, includes material relating to Scott's participation in the 1936 Olympic Games at Kiel and his unsuccessful challenge for the America's Cup in 1964. Also of interest are papers concerning his Presidency of the International Yacht Racing Association, 1959-1969.


Section L, Gliding, includes papers documenting Scott's involvement with the British Gliding Association, 1956-1981, drafts of articles and papers relating to broadcasts.


Section M, Correspondence, is exceptional in extent and spans the period 1945 to 1989. It reflects Scott's broad range of activities and interests; the subjects covered include painting commissions, the Wildfowl Trust, the World Wildlife Fund, publications and general ornithological and conservation matters. A number of scientists, including Nikolaas Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz, Julian Huxley and W.H. Thorpe, are represented and there is significant correspondence from the general public, much of it expressing appreciation of Scott's work at the Wildfowl Trust and of his paintings, broadcasts and books.


Compiled by Simon Coleman, Alan Hayward, Adrian Nardone and Timothy E. Powell


The work of the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists and the production of this catalogue are made possible by the support of the following societies and organisations:


The Biochemical Society


The British Crystallographic Association


The Geological Society


The Higher Education Funding Council for England


The Institute of Physics


The Royal Society


Trinity College Cambridge


The Wellcome Trust




We are very grateful to Lady Scott for making the papers available and for advice given.

Date: 1916-1993
Related material:



The archives of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust are held at the Trust's headquarters, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.


Most of Scott's correspondence relating to his work for the World Wide Fund for Nature are held at its Headquarters, Gland, Switzerland.


The archives of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) are held at the IUCN headquarters, Gland, Switzerland.

Held by: Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Scott, Sir, Peter Markham, 1909-1989, Knight, scientist and nature conservationalist

Physical description: ca 7800 items
Access conditions:












Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were received from Lady Scott, widow, in several consignments during the summer and autumn of 1995.

Publication note:

For a full account of Scott's life see Peter Scott, Painter and Naturalist, by Elspeth Huxley (London, 1993).

  • Wildlife conservation
Administrative / biographical background:



Scott was born in London on 14 September 1909, the son of the famous Antarctic explorer, Captain Robert Falcon Scott. He was two years old when his father died with his companions on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912. His mother Kathleen (née Bruce; later Lady Kennet), a sculptor, was re-married in 1922, to Edward Hilton Young (later Lord Kennet of the Dene).


Scott attended Oundle School near Peterborough before entering Trinity College Cambridge in 1927 to read Natural Sciences. In his third year he changed direction entirely, opting to study the History of Art and Architecture. He left Cambridge in 1930 with an Ordinary BA Degree in History of Art and Botany and enrolled at the State Academy of Arts in Munich. On returning from Germany in July 1931 he gained a place at the Royal Academy School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and remained there for two years.


At Cambridge Scott spent a considerable part of his time painting, usually wildfowl studies, and also became an enthusiastic wildfowler in the Norfolk estuaries and marshes. He found that his imagination was stimulated by observing living birds in their wetland environment, rather than by the formal study of Natural Sciences. His fascination with wetlands and their wildfowl endured for the rest of his life, profoundly influencing his painting and, later, much of his work as a conservationist.


From 1933 to 1940 Arthur Ackermann & Son held highly successful annual exhibitions of Scott's paintings. During these years he rented East Lighthouse at the mouth of the River Nene in order to paint and collect wildfowl. His first book, Morning Flight, an account of his years in East Anglia and the Fens with his own illustrations, was published by Country Life in 1935.


In World War Two Scott served in the Royal Navy, at first seeing action in the Battle of France and the Battle of the Atlantic, 1940-1942. He later reached the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in the Steam Gunboat Flotilla of the Coastal Forces and took part in some notable engagements in the English Channel. Three times mentioned in dispatches, he received an MBE in 1942 and a DSC in 1943. Immediately after resigning from the Royal Navy he stood as a Conservative and National Candidate in the 1945 General Election, narrowly failing to win the Wembley North seat.


In 1946 Scott founded the Severn Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) at Slimbidge, Gloucestershire, to develop his earlier idea of forming a single collection of all the world's species of ducks, geese and swans - the Anatidae family. A non-profit making organisation, its aims were the conservation and public display of wildfowl and scientific research on species and wetland habitats. The Trust's work in the catching and ringing of wild geese, for which Scott pioneered the 'rocket-netting' technique, enabled extensive studies of their populations and migrations to be made. In the early 1950s the Hawaiian Goose or 'Ne-ne', a species very near to extinction, was successfully bred at Slimbridge and re-introduced into the Hawaiian islands. In the following two decades the Trust expanded its operations, opening five new centres and refuges at various locations in the UK.


Scott understood that the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment needed to be viewed in an international context, if significant advances were to be achieved. A co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF; now the World Wide Fund for Nature), he served as its first Chairman (1961-1982) and as Chairman of the WWF British National Appeal. As Chairman of the Survival Services Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), 1962-1981, he invented the Red Data Books for documenting endangered species of flora and fauna. Scott was heavily involved in the WWF's fundraising projects and campaigns, at the same time establishing himself as a prominent communicator for the cause of world conservation. In numerous speeches he emphasised the dangers inherent not only to wildlife but to man himself in the continued destruction and pollution of the biosphere. Outside the WWF and IUCN he served, in various capacities, a great number organisations covering a broad range of conservation interests. Among the offices he held were President of the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society, 1981-1989, and Director of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau Ltd, 1961-1977.


His numerous interests and commitments in the fields of conservation and ornithology necessitated a great deal of travel overseas. He visited the Antarctic on five occasions, and his ornithological expeditions included a search for the Redbreasted Goose along the shores of the Caspian Sea (1938) and an exploration of the Perry River region of the Canadian Arctic to study Ross's Goose and its breeding grounds (1949).


In the 1940s Scott became a well-known broadcaster, regularly appearing on the BBC radio programme Nature Parliament on Children's Hour. He was instrumental in the development of the BBC's Natural History Unit at Bristol, presenting the television programme Look from 1955 to 1970. In 1971 he began presenting commentaries for Anglia Television's natural history series, Survival, and became a Director of Survival Anglia Ltd.


Scott published eighteen books and illustrated twenty others. His best known books include Morning Flight (see above), Wild Chorus (1938), The Battle of the Narrow Seas (1945), The Eye of the Wind (autobiography, 1961) and Travel Diaries of a Naturalist (three volumes, 1983-1987).


In addition to his work as artist, conservationist and broadcaster he held offices in various other organisations, most notably the Chancellorship of the University of Birmingham, 1974-1983. His other main interests were yachting and gliding. He won a bronze medal for single-handed sailing at the Olympic Games in Kiel in 1936, won the Prince of Wales Cup in 1937 and 1938, and competed unsuccessfully for the America's Cup in 1964. In 1963 he won the National Open Gilding Championship.


In 1942 Scott married Elizabeth Jane Howard, the future novelist, from whom he was later divorced. In 1951 he married Philippa Talbot Ponsonby (later Lady Scott; referred to in the catalogue as Philippa Scott) who is now Honorary Director of the Wildfowl Trust. During his lifetime he received many honours and awards for his conservation work. He was awarded the CBE in 1953 and was knighted in 1973, the first person to receive this honour for services to conservation. In 1987 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society under Statute 12.


Scott died in August 1989.

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