Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 19th, 2010
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.
But who is the “Father of Cryptozoology”? Actually, the debate over who is the “Father of Cryptozoology,” in reality, has raged on for years.
Illustration by Alika Lindbergh.
In 1955, Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans wrote a groundbreaking book in French, a now classic opus entitled (in English) On the Track of Unknown Animals. But in the 1955 French and the 1958 English editions, you will not find the word “cryptozoology,” in any language, in the text.
The first published use of the word “cryptozoology,” in French, occurred in 1959 in a book by wildlife biologist Lucien Blancou, dedicated to “Bernard Heuvelmans, master of cryptozoology.” At least, that is as far as we know.
But should the candidate for “father of cryptozoology,” be the person who actually worked the word into print in the first English-language book? The premiere utilization of the term “cryptozoological,” in English, was in 1961, in Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life by Ivan T. Sanderson.
In Heuvelmans’s 1968 book In the Wake of the Sea Serpents, it is clear that the word “cryptozoology” had been around for perhaps over twenty years before it came into print in 1959. Speaking of two articles on water monsters written in 1947 and 1948 by Ivan T. Sanderson, Heuvelmans wrote: “When [Sanderson] was still a student he invented the word ‘cryptozoology,’ or the science of hidden animals, which I was to coin later, quite unaware that he had already done so.”
Intriguingly, this passage is missing from the French edition of Heuvelmans’ Sea Serpent book, and only exists in the English edition.
Heuvelmans is very open that it was Sanderson’s article in Saturday Evening Post in 1947, which stimulated him, Heuvelmans to undertake a study of unknown animals. After writing about jazz and doing some science articles, Heuvelmans was looking about for a project to devote his time and from which to obtain an income. He discovered that article, and thus stumbled into what would become “cryptozoology.” Ivan was the mentor to Bernard. But others have defended Heuvelmans’ status by noting he invented the “methodology of cryptozoology.”
Perhaps that is even in dispute, because the methodology for the surveying of the ethnoknown information from indigenous peoples has been around for a long time. Before there was cryptozoology, there was “romantic zoology,” which took as its objective to discover new animals based upon the testimony of native folks.
My friend and associate, Mark A. Hall, has made the case for some rather older “romantic natural historians,” as candidates for the first cryptozoologists and “fathers of cryptozoology.” Such names as A. C. Oudemans, Gunnar Olof Hylten-Cavallius, Karl Hagenbeck, Willy Ley, George Wendt, Rupert T. Gould, William H. Harkness, W. M. Gerald Russel, and Tom Slick, come to mind, although, of course, people like Russell and Slick were contemporaries of Sanderson and Heuvelmans.
Willy Ley, a popular author who Heuvelmans would have also been aware of in Europe, was the successful, popular author of several books published before either Sanderson’s or Heuvelmans’ appeared, including The Lungfish and the Unicorn: An Excursion into Romantic Zoology (1941), The Lungfish, the Dodo, and the Unicorn (1948), Dragons in Amber: Further Adventures of a Romantic Naturalist (1951), and Salamanders and other Wonders (1955). Exotic Zoology, published in 1959, and honored via Matt Bille’s title of his now-defunct journal, was the compilation of several chapters on cryptozoological topics from Willy Ley’s previous books.
Heuvelmans personally considered Oudemans as the first initiator of the field of Cryptozoology.
Who is your nominee for the “Father of Cryptozoology”? Or the “grandfathers”?
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Deep appreciation, again!
The museum will be closed on Father’s Day, so we may be with our sons, who are traveling from far away to visit.
Ivan T. Sanderson’s and Bernard Heuvelmans’ mutual discovery, Homme Sauvage, from Guide Des Animaux Cachés (Guide to Hidden Animals), published in late October 2009, by author Philippe Coudray. One could say it was their “baby,” their “son.”
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