The Book That Made Me: Philip Reeve 16/10/19
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor
Publisher: Andersen Press
Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, the young Joan Procter preferred playing with her lizard and snake pets to the games that were expected from a girl in the early 1900s.
Unable to attend much school because of illness, Joan nevertheless was very bright, and fascinated with reptiles. When Joan was 16, she became the assistant to the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum, taking over from the curator when he retired four years later.
In 1923, she was appointed curator of reptiles at London Zoo, where she was given the challenge of housing and caring for two Komodo dragons, about which very little was known at the time.
This amazing story of a largely unknown scientist – and pioneer of the care of Komodo dragons – is a fascinating read, beautifully illustrated by Felicita Sala and written by Patricia Valdez, a molecular and cell biologist who now works at the US National Institute of Health. It’s lovely too that the book also features some of Joan’s original drawings of reptiles, in a deeply inspiring account of a short but brilliant life.