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The World of Dracology

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During the years of university, job-hunting and family-raising, I still kept an interest in dragons and their ilk, keeping notes and taking stock of new books on the subject. My tutor at college, a classic and a humanist, when asked about the word "dracology," said that it was a bastard, half Latin and half Greek, and the pure form should be "draconology," but he added that we accept "bicycle" and "television" as English words, bastards both, and since "dracology" looks much better as an English word, his advice was that we should stick with it. Later he told me that I would learn nothing useful about dragons from zoologists (with whom I was studying) because they were all materialists, but should look in the history of art and literature.

This view was reinforced by my zoology demonstrator, the formidable Anna Bidder, who told me that if I wanted to do dragons, I should study art, but if I wanted to do zoology, I should keep dragons for Sundays. She said that there were so many wonderfully strange but little?known real animals needing to be investigated, that it was a shame to spend time on mythological beasts.

Her own special study was of cephalopods, and when she became Principal of a new college that she had been instrumental in founding, she chose a Pearly Nautilus for the crest on its coat of arms. Her advice probably struck home, as dracology took rather a back seat in my life. A fellow zoology student, who was quite keen on fabulous beasts, said that he would not let it be known for fear that it would adversely affect his career. He became a beetle curator in the Royal Edinburgh Museum, but sent me newspaper cuttings about unicorns and the like from time to time.

I never became a professional zoologist, but after a bit of teaching, got a position researching into colour perception and this in turn led me back into education and a wonderful fulfilling life in which mythology and art history again had a place.

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