The Woman who Played with Dragons! – Joan Beauchamp Procter

The Woman who Played with Dragons! – Joan Beauchamp Procter

Joan Beauchamp Procter was born in 1897 and
loved reptiles ever since she was a little girl. By the time she was my age, she had several
snakes and lizards as pets and had learned about all of the reptiles found in Great Britain
where she lived. She even had a special Dalmatian Lizard that
would travel everywhere with her and it sat on the dinner table while she ate. When she was 16, Joan bought a baby crocodile
and got in big trouble when she took it out of her bag in math class. Besides the crocodile incident, Joan did really
well at school and had planned to go on to Cambridge University to get a science degree but constant illness kept her at home. For a while, it looked like Joan would never
be able to seriously study what she loved the most. But Joan never gave up on anything. Her love of reptiles and a chance friendship
with a boy named Edward Boulanger would make a huge difference in her life. It turns out that Edward’s father was the
Keeper of Reptiles and Fishes at the British Museum. His dad was so impressed with her knowledge
and enthusiasm for snakes and lizards that when she left school he hired her to be his
official assistant. Even though she couldn’t go to university,
Edward’s dad helped her study zoology independently. Zoology is what biologists call the study
of animals and Joan studied so hard that she was invited
to present her first paper to the Zoological Society of London when she was only 19 years
old. Amazingly, the very next year she was elected
as a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London which was a really, really big deal. You see, just being elected as a member of
the ZSL itself was a huge honor, but being elected as a 20 year old girl without a university
education was considered fantastic. If you don’t already know, inside the scientific
field of Zoology, the study of reptiles is called Herpetology and Joan was soon considered
an expert. When Edward’s father retired a few years later,
SHE was placed in charge of the reptiles at the British Museum. Joan soon became super busy. Her love of drawing and designing realistic
habitats for snakes and lizards was put to good use. At the London Zoo, where Edward was now the
Curator of Reptiles, she helped design a new aquarium. Then when Edward moved up to become the Director
of the aquarium, she took his job as curator of the reptiles she knew so well. Joan’s love of dangerous reptiles made her
famous as the lady who could handle giant pythons, crocodiles and, her favorite, Komodo
Dragons. The first Komodo Dragons to arrive in Europe
were placed under her care at the London Zoo. Joan became so close to them that they were
almost like pets, especially her favorite Komodo Dragon named Sumbawa. By treating the reptiles with respect and
caring for them personally, she was able to show that even though they could kill a person
if they wanted, they weren’t uncontrollably dangerous. Visitors to the zoo would love to watch her
take Sumbawa for a walk and steer him by the tail. He was so tame that children could pet him
and pose with him to have their picture taken. Joan became internationally famous for her
expertise and was published in all kinds of scientific journals and books. But the ill health that had limited her studies
her whole life eventually caught up with her. Sadly, Joan died in 1931 at the very young
age of 34. But her fame lived on. If you go to the London Zoo today you can
see a bronze plaque at the entrance of the Reptile House put up in her memory. Joan, you are my hero because you not only
showed the world that all animals deserve respect, but you showed us that if you work
hard enough you can overcome almost anything. Thanks, Joan! Ready for my special bonus facts? Did you know that Komodo dragons aren’t just
gray? They are a lot more festive than you think
and come in multiple colors like blue, green and orange. Komodo dragons also live a long time. If the baby dragons can keep from being eaten
by adult Komodos, they can live for over 30 years. That means there are Komodo dragons alive
today who were born before the world wide web started. Amazing!

Randy Schultz

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7 thoughts on “The Woman who Played with Dragons! – Joan Beauchamp Procter

  1. Anarchy, The Game Show says:

    Wow! Great job! She was amazing.

  2. SirRunRun says:

    Steered a komodo dragon by the tail through the zoo? You're kidding!

  3. paghat says:

    That was great!

  4. Trini Kwan Thuy Trang the Yellow Ranger says:

    Make a Michael Jackson Video

  5. My Girl Heroes says:

    I just uploaded a new video on the fantastic Rachel Carson. If you liked Joan, you'll love Rachel!

  6. Ana Menendez says:

    Thank you for sharing this video, it was very inspiring .

  7. Bob McConnell says:


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