Scott was the only son of the celebrated explorer Captain Robert Scott (1868-1912) who, in his last message home from his fateful expedition to the South Pole in January 1912, instructed his wife to ensure that his son should take a keen interest in natural history, which he considered to be better than sport; ultimately he developed an exceptional passion for both. He was a keen sportsman from childhood onwards, excelling at school, and later at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied zoology, botany and history of art, culminating in a bronze medal for single-handed yachting at the 1936 Olympic Games, and a gold medal for gliding at the British Gliding Championships in 1963.
His father was not the only influence towards the study of natural history; Sir J. M. Barrie (1860-1937) had given him a life-fellowship in the Zoological Society, London, for his christening present. His mother, Kathleen Scott, a respected sculptor, recognised and encouraged the improvement of his skills as an artist throughout his early life, and from Cambridge Scott moved to the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, and then the Royal Academy Schools, London, to develop further.
In 1933 Scott held his first exhibition at Ackermann's Galleries, London, which established him as a painter of wildfowl and enabled him to launch his career.
After the Second World War, in which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy, Scott returned to his interests in natural history, focusing his attention to the area of the River Severn at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, resulting in the founding of The Severn Wildfowl Trust (later Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) in 1946, which soon boasted the largest collection of living, mostly free-flying wildfowl in the world. In 1961 he founded the World Wildlife Fund (later the World Wide Fund for Nature) with two friends, and as its Chairman from 1961 he was responsible for the design of the famous panda logo and the creation of the Red Data Books of 1962 listing endangered species. It was for this endless hard work and more that he was the first conservationist to be knighted (in 1973), and has been described as 'the father of conservation' by David Bellamy, and the 'patron saint' of conservation by David Attenborough.
The magnitude and diversity of the collection at Slimbridge provided Scott with the opportunity to paint from life all the world's species for Jean Delacour's four-volume Waterfowl of The World. Published between 1951 and 1964 by Country Life, The Waterfowl of the World provided ornithologists with a unique insight into some of the rarest species in the world. The present albums comprise the illustrations for Volumes II, III and IV, the illustrations for Volume I being painted in oil which have since been dispersed. Each page provides the viewer with a detailed illustration of a variety of birds, sometimes in less formal poses, with a printed explanatory note on the facing page clarifying the sex and species of each bird.