Scott was born in London, on the the only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who died when Peter was three years old. He famously left instructions to his wife, sculptor Kathleen Bruce, to "try and make the boy interested in natural history if you can". His mother remarried and had another child, Wayland Young (Lord Kennet). Scott's godfather was Peter Pan creator J. M. Barrie. 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, 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 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 very one-sided competition where the American boat was seen to be the faster design.
He was one of the founders of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly called the World Wildlife Fund), and designed its panda logo. His pioneering work in conservation also contributed greatly to the shift in policy of the International Whaling Commission and signing of the Antarctic Treaty. The latter inspired by his visit to his father's base on Ross Island in Antarctica.
He is also remembered for giving the scientific name of Nessiteras rhombopteryx (based on a blurred underwater photograph of a supposed fin) to the Loch Ness Monster so that it could be registered as an endangered species. The name was based on the Ancient Greek for "the wonder of Ness with the diamond shaped fin", but it was later pointed out to be an anagram of "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S".
In 1962, he co-founded the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau with the then Conservative MP David James, who had previously been Polar Advisor on the classic 1948 movie based on his late father's doomed polar expedition Scott of the Antarctic.
Scott was a long-time Vice-President of the British Naturalists' Association, whose Peter Scott Memorial Award was instituted after his death, to commemorate his achievements.
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.