by Scotty Rushing
The advancement of cryptozoology as a serious form of research can be credited to numerous individuals, but one man is widely considered to be the “Father of Cryptozoology.” That man is Bernard Heuvelmans.
Heuvelmans was born on October 10, 1916 in Le Havre, France. From a very young age, Heuvelmans was very interested in natural history. Like so many others, Heuvelman’s fascination with unknown animals can perhaps be traced to a fondness for the science fiction novels of Jules Verne and other popular authors. Bernard Heuvelmans never outgrew his interests, and he obtained a doctorate in zoology from the Free University of Brussels. The subject of Heuvelman’s doctoral thesis was a classification of the aardvark’s teeth, something which had not been previously accomplished. For several years after graduation, Heuvelmans wrote extensively on the history of science.
A 1948 article in the Saturday Evening Post would ultimately shape the direction of Bernard Heuvelmans’ career. A respected biologist, Ivan T. Sanderson, presented evidence for the continued existence of dinosaurs. The subject was of great interest to Heuvelmans and he began to pursue evidence in scientific and literary sources. Within a short period of time he had amassed a large amount of research. The end result of gathering all of this data was a book entitled On the Track of Unknown Animals. Heuvelmans’ book, published in 1955, became the primary text for budding cryptozoologists and it is still in print today. More than one million copies have been sold, including an updated version in 1995.
The word “cryptozoology” is believed to have been coined by Heuvelmans in his private correspondence with other interested researchers after the publication of his book. It is beyond dispute that he was the first to take the subject matter seriously in a scientific sense, and that legacy is quite possibly his greatest accomplishment. He remained active in the field until his death in 2001, writing and serving as the inaugural president of the International Society of Cryptozoology from 1982 until the organization disbanded in 1998.
The importance of Bernard Heuvelmans to cryptozoology rests in his academic and scientific credentials. His research was grounded in the scientific method, and his background in zoology gave credibility to his findings. The scientific community respected Heuvelmans’ scholarship even if they might not always have agreed with his conclusions. It is important for modern cryptozoologists to appreciate Heuvelmans’ place in the history of this fascinating field.