Mary Anning (1799-1847) was a fossil hunter who lived in Lyme Regis, England.

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Dinosaur Scientists   >   Mary Anning

Mary Anning



Mary Anning
Mary Anning (1799-1847) was a famous fossil hunter who lived in Lyme Regis, England - a part of the country which is today known as the Jurassic Coast.

In 1811, aged just 12, Anning discovered the fossilized skeleton of an Ichthyosaur (this specimen is now in London's Natural History Museum). Although Ichthyosaurs had been known from fragments since at least 1699, this was the first complete skeleton found - Mary first found the skull, and only later found the rest of the animal after a storm washed away the part of a cliff which contained it. Anning subsequently went on to discover two more species of Ichthyosaur.

Anning's later finds included a Plesiosaur in 1821, and Pterosaur (the first complete specimen, and the first found outside of Germany) in 1828.

Mary Anning's discoveries were important because they helped establish the fact of extinction. Until then, many people had argued that God would not allow any species to become extinct (as that would imply an imperfect creation), and thus the strange animals found in fossils were still alive in some region of the planet. However, the truly bizarre nature of the animals found by Anning, help contribute to making such arguments seem unlikely.

In life, Anning was recognized by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, being granted an annuity when in her thirties. As a woman, she was not eligible for the standard membership of the Geological Society of London, but she was however granted honorary membership.

Anning sadly died aged just 47. She was commemorated by a stained-glass window in the church of St Michael the Archangel in Lyme Regis. She was however largely forgotten after her death, until interest in her revived in more recent times. She is referred to in John Fowles' 1969 novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and today there is a display about her in London's Natural History Museum. Additionally, some people claim that the tongue twister that begins "She sells sea shells by the sea shore" was inspired by Mary Anning.

Plesiosaurus macrocephalus found by Mary Anning:
Plesiosaurus macrocephalus found by Mary Anning


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Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning of Lyme Regis
By Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Paperback (32 pages)

Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning of Lyme Regis
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Mary Anning is probably the world's best-known fossil-hunter. As a little girl, she found a fossilised sea monster, the most important prehistoric discovery of its time. Best-selling author Laurence Anholt turns Mary's fascinating life into a beautiful story, ideal for reading aloud. Sheila Moxley's luscious pictures vividly evoke the coastal setting and the real-life dramas of this spectacular tale.

FOSSIL HUNTER (MacSci)
By SHELLEY EMLING

Griffin
Released: 2011-01-04
Paperback (258 pages)

FOSSIL HUNTER (MacSci)
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Mary Anning was only twelve years old when, in 1811, she discovered the first dinosaur skeleton--of an ichthyosaur--while fossil hunting on the cliffs of Lyme Regis, England. Until Mary's incredible discovery, it was widely believed that animals did not become extinct. The child of a poor family, Mary became a fossil hunter, inspiring the tongue-twister, "She Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore." She attracted the attention of fossil collectors and eventually the scientific world. Once news of the fossils reached the halls of academia, it became impossible to ignore the truth. Mary's peculiar finds helped lay the groundwork for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, laid out in his On the Origin of Species. Darwin drew on Mary's fossilized creatures as irrefutable evidence that life in the past was nothing like life in the present.

A story worthy of Dickens, The Fossil Hunter chronicles the life of this young girl, with dirt under her fingernails and not a shilling to buy dinner, who became a world-renowned paleontologist. Dickens himself said of Mary: "The carpenter's daughter has won a name for herself, and deserved to win it."

Here at last, Shelley Emling returns Mary Anning, of whom Stephen J. Gould remarked, is "probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of paleontology," to her deserved place in history.

Mary Anning's Curiosity
By Monica Kulling

GROUNDWOOD
Hardcover (156 pages)

Mary Anning s Curiosity
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Mary Anning, considered the world’s greatest fossilist, discovered her first big find at the age of twelve. This novel is an imaginative recreation of her childhood in early nineteenth-century Lyme Regis.
Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter (On My Own Biography)
By Sally M. Walker

First Avenue Editions
Paperback (48 pages)

Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter (On My Own Biography)
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Describes the life of Mary Anning, who discovered many of the best and most complete fossils in nineteenth-century England, yet received little credit for her work.
History VIPs: Mary Anning
By Kay Barnham

Wayland
Released: 2017-01-31
Paperback (32 pages)

History VIPs: Mary Anning
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'She sells sea shells on the sea shore' - and she really did! This rhyme is thought to have been written about Mary Anning, an amazing fossilist and dinosaur expert, who was almost unknown at the time she lived. This biography explores the life of Mary Anning, from her first fossil finds at the age of ten to her sales of important discoveries to wealthy scientists. Mary's fossil finds made a great contribution to what scientist understood about pre-historic life.

Through the story of Mary Anning, readers learn about life and society in the 1800s and Victorian Britain. We learn what it was like to be born into a poor family and about the roles of women in society and in the field of science. Readers will learn to draw conclusions from the evidence provided - a great basis for class discussions.

History VIP biographies each look at the life of a famous Briton telling the stories of these Very Important People with clear, lively text. Amazing facts are added with feature panels and lively illustrations give visual information of the time and society the VIP lived in. With these key biographies students learn how individual people's actions have shaped the course of history.

Key terms are defined in an easy-to-use glossary encouraging readers to use historical terms in their own work.

History VIPs biographies focus on key subjects in the history curriculum for Key Stages 2 and 3, exploring the impact of exceptional figures in history and the society and culture in Britain at the time that they lived.

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In other news - these panels give context and help readers to understand the society and events of the wider world in which the subject lived
True or False - questions lead students to question information and to interact with the facts they are presented with.
What they said - quote features bring the subjects to life using their own words!
WOW! - Boxes add humorous or amazing information to astound the reader and bring out the hilarious side of history

The Fossil Girl
By Catherine Brighton

Frances Lincoln Children's Bks
Released: 2007-07-23
Paperback (32 pages)

The Fossil Girl
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It's 1811. Ten-year-old Mary Anning, her brother Joe, and their widowed mother are eking out a meager existence running a little fossil shop in the seaside town of Lyme Regis. After a storm wipes out most of the shop's merchandise, Mary and Joe begin the slow work of restocking the shelves. They search high and low for fossils, and one day Mary spots a huge eye in a cliff face high above the town. She resolves to bring the creature down �� no matter what the risk. The exciting discovery and recovery of the first complete fossil of an Ichthyosaurus is told in an attractive graphic novel format, perfect for reluctant readers.

Lightning Mary
By Anthea Simmons

Andersen Press
Released: 2019-04-04
Paperback (272 pages)

Lightning Mary
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Ordinary is what most people are and I am not. I am not ordinary at all. I am a scientist.

One stormy night, a group of villagers are struck by lightning. The only survivor is a baby - Mary Anning. From that moment on, a spark is lit within her.
Growing up poor but proud on the windswept Dorset coast, Mary follows after her father, hunting for fossils uncovered by waves and landslips: ancient creatures, turned to stone. Ignoring other people's taunts, Mary faces danger to bring back valuable treasures to help feed her family. But tragedy and despair is never far away. Mary must depend upon her unique courage and knowledge to fulfil her dream of becoming a scientist in a time when girls have no opportunities for such ambitions. What will happen when she makes her greatest discovery of all...?

With a factual section about Mary Anning, her life, and the discoveries she made.
Remarkable Creatures: A Novel
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Penguin Books
Released: 2010-10-26
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A voyage of discovery, two remarkable women, and an extraordinary time and place enrich this New York Times bestselling novel by Tracy Chevalier, author of At the Edge of the Orchard and Girl With a Pearl Earring.

On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.

Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.

Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.
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