Diversity of Ichthyosaurs, Courtesy of Wikimedia
Today is the 215th birthday of British paleontologist Mary Anning. Born in 1799, Mary was a woman ahead of her time. She began fossil hunting with her father as a child as part of a family business. The family lived in Lyme Regis in Dorset, known as one of the best fossil-finding locations in Britain. At age twelve, Mary and her brother Joseph found the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton. She is also credited with finding the first two plesiosaur skeletons and first pterosaur skeleton outside of Germany.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to be a woman in science in the 18th and 19th centuries, and she had to struggle for recognition. Her gender, combined with a lack of formal education and a family associated with religious dissent, all worked against her. But as is true with most passionate people, she persevered in spite of the difficulties and dangers. Fossil hunting was a treacherous endeavor in Lyme Regis. Winter landslides not only revealed new fossils, but also posed a threat to life and limb. In 1833, Mary was nearly killed by a landslide that took the life of her dog, Tray.
In 2010, Mary was named by the Royal Society as one of the top ten British women whose discoveries have most influenced science. We think modern dinosaur enthusiasts will appreciate our selection of prehistoric life.
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