Dr. Cotton first worked as a physical chemist at the Naval Propellant Plant at Indian Head, Maryland. From there he moved to the Marine Engineering Laboratory in Annapolis where he worked on the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels and invented a microwave absorption technique for measuring solid propellant burning rates. Later he researched liquid state chemistry and liquid gas propellants.
His career extended beyond the laboratory. For 2 years Cotton was science editor for Libratterian Books, presenting scientific and technical subjects to lay readers.