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Mary Anning

Mary Anning

Mary Anning
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(Credit: STFC)

Amongst the greatest palaeontologists of her time, Mary Anning began her career selling fossils that she found on the Lyme Regis coast.

Fossil hunting was not just a hobby for Anning; she needed to sell her finds in order to support her family. Anning was one of 10 children, most of whom died in infancy, and her father also died when she was just 11. It was then up to young Mary to help earn money for the family.

Too poor to attend school, Anning taught herself to read, write and draw. At 12-years-old, she made her first major discovery: complete ichthyosaurus remains on the Dorset coast.

Through her work with fossils, Anning increasingly became an expert in the field of palaeontology. Before long, she was an important consultant on prehistoric life and an esteemed member of the science community.

Nonetheless, Anning was prohibited from joining professional societies because of rules banning female members at the time.

During her lifetime, Anning revolutionised her field. Her work influenced the theories of Charles Darwin, who referred to her in his writings as the carpenter’s daughter, who deservedly ‘won a name for herself’.

Anning overcame great challenges during her life to become one of history’s foremost palaeontology experts and she is remembered for transforming the way we understood evolution and prehistoric life.

Mary Anning triumphed over adversity

  • Began fossil hunting to support her fatherless family
  • Too poor to attend school, taught herself to read, write & draw
  • Discovered the first complete ichthyosaurus skeleton
  • Became an expert in palaeontology & a key consultant in the field
  • Influenced the theories of Charles Darwin
  • Transformed our understanding of evolution & prehistoric life 

Last updated: 01 February 2018


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