Hugh B. Cott
Hugh B. Cott born Hugh Bamford Cott, was a British zoologist, an authority on both natural and military camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

, and a scientific illustrator and photographer. Many of his field studies took place in Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, where he was especially interested in the Nile crocodile
Nile crocodile
The Nile crocodile or Common crocodile is an African crocodile which is common in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Gabon, South Africa, Malawi, Sudan, Botswana, and Cameroon...



Cott was born in Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, on July 6, 1900. In 1919, he graduated from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Between 1922 and 1925, he studied at Selwyn College
Selwyn College, Cambridge
Selwyn College is a constituent college in the University of Cambridge in England, United Kingdom.The college was founded by the Selwyn Memorial Committee in memory of the Rt Reverend George Selwyn , who rowed on the Cambridge crew in the first Varsity Boat Race in 1829, and went on to become the...

, Cambridge University. In 1938, he earned a Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science , usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In some countries Doctor of Science is the name used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, elsewhere the Sc.D...

 degree at the University of Glasgow
University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Located in Glasgow, the university was founded in 1451 and is presently one of seventeen British higher education institutions ranked amongst the top 100 of the...

 (Scotland) under the supervision of John Graham Kerr
John Graham Kerr
Sir John Graham Kerr was a Scottish embryologist and Unionist Member of Parliament .  He is best known for his studies of the embryology of lungfishes.Born in Hertfordshire to Scottish parents, Kerr was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and at the University of Edinburgh, but...

. Cott served in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 as a camouflage expert from 1919–1922, and, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, as a camouflage instructor from 1939–1945.

In the years following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Cott traveled to South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, where he studied natural forms in eastern Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, and on the lower Amazon
Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries that drains an area of about , or roughly 40 percent of South America. The basin is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela...

. He also went on research trips to the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

, and Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, including Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

, Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

 and East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

. As a zoologist, he was a lecturer at Bristol University, 1928–1932; a lecturer at Glasgow University, 1932–1938; Strickland curator and lecturer at Cambridge University, 1938–1967; and a lecturer and Fellow at Selwyn College, 1945–?.

Cott was a founding member of the Society of Wildlife Artists
Society of Wildlife Artists
The Society of Wildlife Artists is a British organisation for artists who paint or draw wildlife, founded in 1964. Its founder President was Sir Peter Scott, the current President of the society is British artist Andrew Stock....

, and a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society
Royal Photographic Society
The Royal Photographic Society is the world's oldest national photographic society. It was founded in London, United Kingdom in 1853 as The Photographic Society of London with the objective of promoting the Art and Science of Photography...

. From material gathered in field expeditions, he made contributions to the Cambridge University zoological museum.

Camouflage research

As a military camouflage expert during both World Wars, he likened the functions of military camouflage with those of protective coloration in nature. He emphasized three main categories: concealment, disguise, and advertisement
Advertising colouration
Advertising coloration refers to semantic colours seen in numerous organisms. It is the opposite of camouflage, 'advertising' the location of an organism or part of its anatomy. These signals are significant for their receivers...

. Within those categories, he studied, described and presented examples of such diverse effects as (among others) obliterative shading, disruption, differential blending, high contrast, coincident disruption, concealment of the eye
Eyes are organs that detect light and convert it into electro-chemical impulses in neurons. The simplest photoreceptors in conscious vision connect light to movement...

, contour obliteration, shadow
A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

 elimination, and mimicry. Cott's account of all this (illustrated by his own pen and ink drawings) can be found in his book titled Adaptive colouration in animals (London: Methuen, 1940, with a foreword by Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

). This 550-page classic continues to be one of the finest, most comprehensive discussions of this subject. His co-workers' first-hand accounts of his work in military camouflage can be found in the memoirs of two of his fellow camoufleurs: Julian Trevelyan
Julian Trevelyan
Julian Otto Trevelyan, RA was a British artist and poet.Trevelyan was the only child of Robert Calverley Trevelyan and his wife Elizabeth van der Hoeven...

, Indigo days (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1957), and Roland Penrose
Roland Penrose
Sir Roland Algernon Penrose CBE was an English artist, historian and poet. He was a major promoter and collector of modern art and an associate of the surrealists in the United Kingdom.- Biography :...

, Scrapbook 1900–1981 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981).

His writings

In addition to Adaptive colouration in animals, Cott wrote two essays on the subject: “Camouflage in nature and in war” in the Royal Engineers Journal (December 1938), pp501–517; and ”Animal form in relation to appearance” in Lancelot Law Whyte
Lancelot Law Whyte
Lancelot Law Whyte was a Scottish financier and industrial engineer.He claimed to have worked with Albert Einstein on the unified field theory. He further claimed that this work was based on the theory of the 18th century natural philosopher Roger Boscovich.Whyte proposed something he called "the...

, ed. Aspects of form: a symposium on form in nature and art (London: Percy Lund Humphries, 1951). As a scientific illustrator and photographer, he also wrote three other books: Zoological photography in practice (1956); Uganda in black and white (1959); and Looking at animals: a zoologist in Africa (1975).

External links

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