Mary Anning: the greatest fossil hunter the world has ever known
July 6, 2015 7:36 AM   Subscribe

She got off to an inauspicious start when she was born in poverty and then was struck by lightning as a small child. But when her father died when she was ten, leaving her family without any means of support, Mary Anning made her own luck with her skill at fossil finding. Her first big find came when she discovered the first complete skeleton of an Icthyosaur at twelve years old. She went on to discover pivotally important skeletons of plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and a fossil fish which was hailed as the "missing link" between sharks and rays. Despite being self taught, she was widely regarded as one of paleontology's greatest experts in the world when she died. Previously.
posted by sciatrix (12 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Also, the tongue-twister "She sells seashells on the seashore" was written about her.
posted by KGMoney at 7:56 AM on July 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

Her first big find came when she discovered the first complete skeleton of an Icthyosaur at twelve years old.

Although, according to the article, this is not entirely true.
posted by three blind mice at 8:11 AM on July 6, 2015

I read a great book about her a while ago: Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier. It covers her (gender) struggles for scientific recognition with the Geological Society of London quite well -- and her lifelong financial struggles that went hand-in-hand.

There also appear to be good children's books about her. Great complement to the usual Marie Curie focus!
posted by Dashy at 8:14 AM on July 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

She discovered the first complete skeleton; she was not the first person to discover Icthyosaur fossils. However, hers was the first to have enough detail to give people an idea of what sort of animal an icthyosaur actually was and also the first to be more or less correctly identified (i.e., not a fish, dolphin, crocodile, or sea lion).

I read the article too!
posted by sciatrix at 8:17 AM on July 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was also going to recommend Remarkable Creatures. And now I might go ahead and re-read it!
posted by jaguar at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

A children's book not listed on the Amazon link is "Stone Girl Bone Girl". My daughter liked this one, I did too as it showed that a child who is a bit different might get made fun of, but also might do well in the end.
posted by rudd135 at 11:08 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I (of course) learned all about Mary Anning by reading Ivy and Bean to my daughter. Fun series.
posted by sauril at 11:31 AM on July 6, 2015

Hmm... I wonder if she found the icthyosaur fossil at the British Natural History Museum (in the huge hallway of them) that was caught (mudslide? deluge? comet explosion?) in the process of giving birth. Because that one is...remarkable.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:40 AM on July 6, 2015

Laura Heit made a gorgeous toy theatre short about her, "The Amazing, Mysterious and True Story of Mary Anning and her Monsters".
posted by ryanshepard at 12:16 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sadly, sexyrobot, that isn't one of hers. Although Anning's is displayed there and so is one of her plesiosaurs, many of the icthyosaur fossils in Fossil Way hallway are from the Hawkins collection. I don't know if that one is or not, but I do know that it's a Stenopterygius quadris from the Baden-Wurttenburg laggerstatten in Germany.
posted by barchan at 12:21 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Isn't this also Mary, of quite contrary fame?
posted by LD Feral at 5:44 PM on July 6, 2015

According to Wikipedia the earliest printed version of “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” is from 1744 & Mary Anning was born in 1799 so probably not.
posted by pharm at 1:16 AM on July 7, 2015

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