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Mary Anning

Mary Anning and her dog TrayMary Anning and her dog Tray Mary Anning (1799–1847) was an English fossil-hunter and self-taught palaeontologist who was once described as "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew". Her discoveries, most notably of marine reptiles and pterosaurs from the Age of Dinosaurs, significantly helped the work of many British scientists by providing them with specimens to study. Mary was not permitted to become a member of the newly formed Geological Society of London, yet many palaeontologists sought her advice for their research and a number of them visited her in her home in Lyme Regis.

The Annings' house in Lyme RegisThe Annings' house in Lyme Regis

Early life

Mary Anning was born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, on 21st May 1799 to Richard Anning and his wife Mary. Richard was a cabinet-maker who supplemented his income by collecting fossils from the cliffs near the family’s home and selling them. The couple had 10 children, but only Mary and her brother Joseph survived to adulthood. Richard died in 1810, leaving his wife and children in debt and destitute. The family lived in poverty, relying on charity—but also on the sale of the fossils that Mary was increasingly skilled at finding. However, fossil-hunting was a risky business, as the storms and landslides that often exposed new finds also made the sea cliffs dangerously unstable. 

First finds

The tongue-twister "She sells sea shells on the seashore" has been attributed to Mary Anning.

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