Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter
Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, England
Mary Anning was an English woman famous for finding fossils along the seashore at Lyme Regis. She discovered some of the first extinct sea creature skeletons along the Jurassic Coast of England.
She picked up fossils to sell in her family's curiosities shop in Lyme Regis, and the tongue twister "She sells seashells by the seashore" is believed to have been written about her.
Photo of a Painting: Portrait of Mary Anning with her dog Tray and the Golden Cap outcrop in the background, Natural History Museum, London. This painting was owned by her brother Joseph, and presented to the museum in 1935 by Miss Annette Anning.
Photo Credit: Credited to 'Mr. Grey' in Crispin Tickell's book 'Mary Anning of Lyme Regis' (1996) in the public domain.
Mary Anning Biography
Learn a little about this fascinating fossil pioneer
Mary Anning was born on May 21, 1799, in Lyme Regis along the Dorset Coast of England to Richard and Mary Anning. She had one living sibling, a brother Joseph. Eight other siblings died in infancy.
As a young child, Mary was struck by lightning but survived. Three other people, including the woman who was holding her, were killed.
As children, she and Joseph hunted fossils along the Lyme Bay under the dangerous high cliffs. Her father had a woodworking business and a storefront shop where they sold the "curiosities" or "curies" they collected from the seashore.
In 1810, Richard Anning, Mary's father died. Her family was left to fend for themselves and lived hand to mouth. Mary and her brother continued to collect ammonites and belemnites, among other finds, from the seashore to sell to tourists who visited the Lyme region.
In 1811, Joseph and Mary discovered what they thought were the skull and almost complete skeleton of a crocodile. This "creature" was a major find, which put Mary on the map as a serious fossil hunter after it was sold to local Lord Henry Hoste Henley who then sold it to William Bullock to display in the Museum of Natural Curiosities in London.
The "crocodile" was later named Ichthyosaurus, which means fish lizard. Mary's reputation as an expert fossil hunter was further enhanced when a sale of specimens at auction by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James Birch brought Â£400. This money was donated to the Anning family. The publicity brought Mary fame and respect from scientists who worked with her to discover more geologic finds.
Another of Mary's discoveries was that ink from squid-like belemnites could be ground to use as drawing ink.
Mary Anning died in Lyme Regis in 1847 from breast cancer.
Photo Credit: Gaius Cornelius 18:06, 14 August 2006 (UTC), in the public domain.
Books about the Life of Mary Anning - Introduce Mary Anning to Children with These Books
Learn More About Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter - She was a fascinating woman.
- Mary Anning | Natural History Museum
Despite poverty and little education, Mary Anning found some of the most important fossils ever discovered, all on her home coastline in Dorset. Find out how.
- Mary Anning, Finder of Fossils
Lyme Regis Philpot Museum -- Mary Anning, Born: Lyme Regis, England, May 21, 1799, Died: Lyme Regis, England, March 9, 1847 Finder of Fossils Mary Anning lived through a life of privation and hardship to become what one source called "the greatest fo
- Mary Anning (1799-1847)
Mary Anning (1799-1847), "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew." Despite the fact that Mary Anning's life has been made the subject of several books and articles, comparatively little is known about her life, and many people are unaware of her
- Mary Anning | Lyme Regis Museum: Science, Arts, Landscape
Information about Mary Anning at Lyme Regis Museum. Mary Anning was a self-educated, working class woman from Lyme Regis and the greatest fossil hunter ever known.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier - A Novel Based on Mary Anning's Life
Remarkable Creatures, a novel, is a fictional account of Mary Anning and was my introduction to this remarkable woman. I'd read several of Tracy Chevalier's novels (her most famous novel is Girl with a Pearl Earring that was made into a movie with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson) and knew I'd enjoy it, but this book is actually based on the life of a real person.
From the Postscript, The reader's patience, of Remarkable Creatures, Chevalier writes, "Remarkable Creatures is a work of fiction, but many of the people existed, and events such as Colonel Birch's auction and the Geological Society meeting where Colybeare talked about the plesiosaur did take place. And Mary did indeed write at the bottom of a scientific paper she had copied out: 'When I write a paper there shall not be but one preface.' Sadly she never did write her own scientific paper."
Learn More About Geology - and Fossils and Ammonites
Author Tracy Chevaleir - Interviewed about Remarkable Creatures
She Sells Seashells by the Seashore - Gifts for Sea Lovers
According to legend, the tongue twister "She sells seashells by the seashore" was written about Mary Anning. Her family did sell the fossils they found in a shop in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England.
Bathing Machines Were Used in the 1800s - and are mentioned in the novel Remarkable Creatures
According to the freedictionary, a bathing machine was a small hut, on wheels so that it could be pulled to the sea, used in the 18th and 19th centuries for bathers to change their clothes.
More Background on Mary Anning - by Author Tracy Chevalier
For more information about Tracy Chevalier's research and findings on Mary Anning, check out these links.
- BBC News - Audio slideshow: Jurassic woman
She sells sea shells - celebrating the life, 200 years ago, of fossil hunter Mary Anning narrated by author Tracy Chevalier.
- Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Mary Anning, "A strong, energetic spinster... tanned and masculine in expression." "She was very good humoured, but gossiped and abused almost everyone in Lyme, laughing extremely at the young dandies." "She must have been poor enough, for her little
- Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier -- Fossil Gallery
Photos of some of the fossils Mary Anning discovered. Ammonite (AKA snakestone or petrified serpent) Brittle Star (AKA devil's toenail) Gryphaea (AKA devil's toenial)
- Tracy Chevalier - What I'm working on
What I'm Working On Working Title: Remarkable Creatures I'm working on a novel about a fossil collector called Mary Anning. She was a working-class woman who lived all her life in Lyme Regis, a small town on the southern coast of England (where John
Lyme Regis, England - Learn More About the Jurassic Coast
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