Sir Alister Hardy, famous as a marine biologist, was instead a great camoufleur. A young man, he wanted to continue his schooling, on the eve of the Great War, but instead volunteered and was enlisted in the camouflage directorate. It was where the authorities sent their artists, who would be nothing but trouble elsewhere. And it was a way for the artist to continue developing his skills as a painter, rather than as a shooter or bomber (although these also require skill).

The term could be extended beyond the battlefield, I think, into art and science. A camoufleur pretends to be a scientist, while joyfully painting things. Or, he pretends to be an artist, while contriving to be systematically uninventive.

Sir Alister coloured my childhood through two nature books, on The Open Sea. The first was on The World of Plankton and the second on Fish and Fisheries. His illustrations were aberrant for scientific work: for, borne on boats like the Discovery, and dredging the deep, he painted his subjects before their colours had faded, and the wink of life was still on them. He thus captured qualities that no photographer has ever captured. But his prose is “camoufleur,” too: technically correct, but with the breath of poetry whispering.

Marine biology has made dramatic improvements in the years since the IGY (approximately when these books were published), but at the microscopic, “genetic,” sub-cellular levels. At the visual, his work remains precise and explanatory, and in its kind, complete.

It is a wonderful illustration of how science never goes out-of-date, so far as it can be confused with art. The same goes for utile diagrams in all ages. Mr Henry, my biology teacher, demonstrated this with coloured chalks, on the board in the Bangkok Patana school. He cared only for scientific accuracy, but as he obtained it, he obtained art.

The creatures of this world camouflage their physiology with expressions of being. Except, it is not expression. It just is, and they just are.