Happy Birthday, Mary Anning!
Party like it’s 1799, because that’s the year this trowelblazing woman-the “greatest fossil hunter ever known”-was born.
Mary Anning came from a poor family of religious dissenters, which was partly the reason why she began to look for fossils-in the early 1800s, visitors to the Dorset coast loved to buy fossils as curiosities.
Not only did she discover the first specimens of what would later be recognized as Ichthyosaurus, but also a complete Plesiosaurus, along with specimens of Pterodactylus and Squaloraja (a fossil fish).
We could go on listing her discoveries all day-she also was the first to realize that ink could be made from belemnite fossils and that coprolites (then called bezoar stones) were actually fossilized feces.
Dickens wrote about her in 1865. Though we disagree with his assertion that she was a dull child until being hit by lightening at a young age, thus somewhat dismissing her innate intelligence (and in fact, she would have been only 1 year old with the date he provides) but we liked that he also had this to say:
“The inscription under her memorial window commemorates her “usefulness in furthering the science of geology” (it was not a science when she began to discover, and so helped make it one), “and also her benevolence of heart and integrity of life” (Dickens 1865: 63).
So thank you Mary Anning, for all you did for geology, paleontology, and science. We raise our trowels to you!
Written and posted by Suzie