Naturalist Spies


Richard Conniff charts the intersection:

Spies have at times certainly pretended to be naturalists.  The most public of them was Sir Robert Baden Powell, better known as founder of the Boy Scouts.  As a British secret agent, he thought it clever to pose as “one of the exceedingly stupid Englishmen who wandered about foreign countries sketching cathedrals, or catching butterflies.”   His detailed maps of enemy fortifications were concealed within the natural patterns of butterfly wings and tree leaves, and he sometimes showed off these sketches to locals, secure in the sad knowledge that they “did not know one butterfly from anotherany more than I do."

(Image: "A sketch of a butterfly contains the outline of a fortress, and marks both the position and power of the guns," from My Adventures As A Spy by Powell.)