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Who was Mary Anning?

Mary Anning and her dog TrayMary Anning and her dog TrayMary Anning (1799–1847) was an English fossil-hunter. She was once described as "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew". Her discoveries, chiefly of marine reptiles and pterosaurs from the Age of Dinosaurs, greatly helped the work of many scientists. But because she was a woman, Mary was not allowed to become a member of the Geological Society of London. Despite this, many scientists sought her valuable advice for their research.


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. Her father, Richard Anning, was a cabinet-maker. He also collected fossils from the cliffs near the family’s home and sold them to make some extra money. The couple had 10 children, but only Mary and her brother Joseph survived to adulthood. Richard died in 1810, leaving his wife and children living in poverty.

The children, who had learned from her father where to find fossils, brought in a little money from selling them. 
Mary became increasingly skilled at fossil-hunting. But it was a risky business. The storms and landslides that often revealed new finds also made the sea cliffs likely to collapse. 

It is thought that the words to the tongue-twister "She sells sea shells on the seashore" were written about Mary Anning.

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