Robert (Dickie) Watt, son of farmer John Watt, was educated at the University of Glasgow and obtained the degrees Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Arts (MA). He also studied at the West of Scotland Agricultural College, where he was awarded the National Diploma in Dairying in 1902, and the National Diploma in Agriculture, winning a gold medal and a Carnegie Research Scholarship, in 1905. After a period of research in agriculture and dairying at Rothamsted agricultural experiment station in Hertford, England, he was appointed assistant chemist in the Division of Chemistry, Department of Agriculture of the Transvaal Colony in January 1907. The next year he became acting chief chemist and acting head of the division, following the return to England of chief chemist Herbert Ingle*, who's contract had expired.
During the next two years Watt published 15 articles in the Transvaal Agricultural Journal, including "Manurial experiments with maize and cowpeas", "The chemistry of milk", "Manurial experiments with potatoes", "Meaning and the value of the chemical analysis of soils", "Notes from the chemical laboratories", "The destruction of 'Witchweed'... by chemical means", "The food of plants", and "Artificial manures or fertilizers". He left South Africa to take up an appointment as professor of agriculture at the University of Sydney, a post he held from 1910 to his retirement in 1946. In addition to articles in agricultural journals he was the author of The romance of the Australian land industries. He was knighted in 1960.