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Mary Anning


Mary Anning By Jennifer Grech Mary was born on 21 May 1799 into a humble family in Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast. She and her brother Joseph were the only survivors ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Mary Anning

Mary Anning
  • By
  • Jennifer Grech

  • Mary was born on 21 May 1799 into a humble family
    in Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast. She and her
    brother Joseph were the only survivors among 10
    children born to Richard Anning and his wife Mary

  • Named after a sister who died in a house fire,
    Mary herself survived a lightning strike that
    killed three others. Legend had it the lightning
    turned her into a bright and observant child.

  • Her father Richard was a carpenter and
    cabinet-maker who taught his daughter how to look
    for and to clean fossils. They sold the
    curiosities they collected from a stall on the
    seafront, they found customers among the middle
    classes who flocked to Lyme in summer.

  • Their shop was such a feature of the area that
    some people think that Mary was the inspiration
    for the well-known tongue-twister 'She sells
    seashells on the seashore', which was written by
    Terry Sullivan in1908.

  • The family remained very poor though and when
    Richard died in 1810 aged only 44, as a result of
    consumption and injuries following a fall, it
    brought great hardship.
  • Young Mary supplemented their meagre income by
    continuing the trade. She had a good eye for
    fossils. The cliffs and foreshore at Lyme are
    rich in belemnites and ammonites, and
    occasionally reptiles and fishes, deposited from
    Jurassic seas 200 million years ago. 
  • Waves from the sea and landslides constantly
    exposed new supplies. There were good pickings
    but it was a dangerous living mudflows,
    treacherous tides, unstable cliffs and
    unforgiving sea

  • Mary was literate, despite having only a little
    education. She taught herself geology and
    anatomy. She was visited by, and corresponded
    with, eminent scientists of the time. 
  • Her opinions were sought and she was acknowledged
    as an expert in many areas, including on the
    rather unglamorous coprolites (fossil faeces). 

  • Mary also made the discovery that ink from
    squid-like belemnites can be ground up and used
    for drawing.

  • Her life revolved around Lyme Regis. She only
    left once in her lifetime, for a short trip to
    London. Her picture shows a middle aged woman,
    carrying with her hammer, accompanied by her dog,

  • Mary died from cancer, aged 47. For one with such
    disadvantaged beginnings, she had gained the
    respect and imagination of scientific and lay
    public who gave her recognition in her lifetime. 
  • Nine years before her death she was given an
    annuity, or annual payment, raised by members of
    the British Association for the Advancement of
    Science and the Geological Society of London. 

  • She was the first honorary member of the new
    Dorset County Museum. 
  • Her death in 1847 was recorded by the Geological
    Society (which did not admit women until 1904)
    and her life commemorated by a stained glass
    window in the local church.