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Salcombe was interested in the debate about dragon intelligence and wrote on the subject to the Royal Society in 1806. He tried to prove that although dragons are the most intelligent animals they cannot possess true reason. In his letter, he stated that the ability to speak is not an evidence for true understanding since parrots and dogs can also communicate to a certain degree. He agreed that the ability to make mathematical calculations is a sign of true reason but doubted the witnesses who claimed they saw dragons perform them.
During Temeraire’s stay in the Pen Y Fan Breeding Grounds he went there to confirm his claims but did not have much luck, as Temeraire was familiar with his letter. Further compounding his ill luck, Temeraire countered his inquisitor's questions with one of his own: a simple application of the Pythagorean Theorem. Salcombe was unable to solve even this basic trigonometric relationship, and in his indignation accused some other party of imparting this intelligence to Temeraire; he still maintained that dragons could not possibly understand advanced mathematical subjects (likely this belief was bolstered by his own inability in regards to the subjects).
He was a priest, probably in charge of a parish.