Mary Anning’s 215th Birth Anniversary

Mary Anning’s 215th birth anniversary

Mary Anning, the fossilist was remembered on 21st May in Britain on her 215th birth anniversary. Anning  is best known for her work, collecting fossils from the Jurassic period near her home in Lyme Regis Dorset. She was a British fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist, the scientific study of prehistoric life. 


Mary Anning is the first and only woman to achieve true fame in geology and whose portrait hung on the walls of the Geological Society’s rooms in Piccadilly. Born to a poor family on May 21st 1799, Anning had very hard times during her childhood days. During her lifetime, she contributed in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

Anning learned to collect fossils from her father, Richard. She had her first discovery of a skull, when she was just twelve, along with her brother Joseph. Since then she started her collection of fossils which resulted in finding the first specimen of Ichthyosaurus to Plesiosaurus which were later acknowledged by the Geological Society in London. She was also the first one to find British Pterodactylus Macronyx, a flying reptile fossil; the Squaloraja fossil fish. She also managed to get her name in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society after her death,  an organization that would not accept women until 1904. She was named the first Honorary Member of the new Dorset County Museum, one year before her death from breast cancer.

Despite her popularity in Britain, Europe and America, Mary Anning couldn’t make it to the Geological Society of London on account of her gender. Anning’s gender and social class prevented her from participating in the scientific community of 19th-century Britain, which was then dominated by wealthy Anglicans

Anning received her annuity in the last decade of her life from the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Her father who was a cabinetmaker died when she was eleven leaving the family in poverty. She struggled financially for much of her life. They relied on charity to survive. The Geological Society of London collected a stipend for her.

Her life based on hardship made her stronger and that is why even today Anning is credited with “The greatest fossilist the world ever knew.” In the year 1833, she nearly died while digging for a fossil in a landslide. She lost her dog, Tray, in the accident. She met her death on 9th March 1847 due to cancer.

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