Spotlight on: Mary Anning

Mary Anning

Mary Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, England, to a very large, very poor family. Her family was ostracised as Protestants who had separated from the Church of England. Mary’s father was an amateur fossil collector and by her sixth birthday Mary has become his assistant. This was very unusual for a girl in King George III’s England. While Mary received very little formal education, she did know how to read and write. She also taught herself geology and anatomy. In following years, Mary became a dedicated and meticulous palaeontologist – bringing to light missing pieces of anatomy to help solve controversial puzzles of the day.

In 1810 she discovered the first Ichthyosaur, followed by several other finds such a complete Plesiosaurus and Pterodactyl. Many of her male peers would approach her for help identifying specimens, but she was never credited for her work.  Mary died in 1847 at the age of 47. Before her death her work was appreciated but rarely credited.