~~May 21, 2014~~
Google is celebrating the 215th anniversary of the birth of British palaeontologist Mary Anning with a special doodle.
Anning is best known for her work collecting fossils from the Jurassic period near her home in Lyme Regis Dorset.
Today’s colourful Google Doodle shows her uncovering a dinosaur’s fossilised remains.
Anning is recognized for contributing to fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life. Among her many discoveries was the first ever correctly identification skeleton of an ichthyosaur.
Despite being recognized globally for her work in the field, she was not – as a woman – eligible to join the Geological Society of London. In 2010 Anning was included by the Royal Society in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.
Born in Lyme Regis on 21st May 1799. Her father, a cabinetmaker, died when she was just 11.
Anning died of cancer, aged 47, on 9th March 1847.
Mary Anning with her dog, Tray, painted before 1833 when her dog was killed by a landslide; the Golden Cap outcrop can be seen in the background
|Born||21 May 1799
Lyme Regis, Dorset, England
|Died||9 March 1847 (aged 47)
Cause of death
|St. Michael’s Church, Lyme Regis|
|Occupation||Fossil collector · Palaeontologist|
|Religion||Congregational; converted toAnglicanism|
|Parents||Richard Anning (c. 1766–1810)
Mary Moore (c. 1764–1842) 
|Relatives||Joseph Anning (brother; 1796–1849|
Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was a British fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset, a county in Southwest England on the coast of the English Channel, where she lived. Her work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.
Mary Anning searched for fossils in the area’s Blue Lias cliffs, particularly during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils that had to be collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. It was dangerous work, and she nearly lost her life in 1833 during a landslide that killed her dog, Tray.
Her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton correctly identified, which she and her brother Joseph found when she was just twelve years old; the first two plesiosaur skeletons found; the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany; and important fish fossils. Her observations played a key role in the discovery that coprolites, known as bezoar stones at the time, were fossilised feces. She also discovered that belemnite fossils contained fossilised ink sacs like those of modern cephalopods. When geologist Henry De la Beche painted Duria Antiquior, the first widely circulated pictorial representation of a scene from prehistoric life derived from fossil reconstructions, he based it largely on fossils Anning had found, and sold prints of it for her benefit.
Anning’s gender and social class prevented her from fully participating in the scientific community of 19th-century Britain, dominated as it was by wealthy Anglican gentlemen. She struggled financially for much of her life. Her family was poor, and as religious dissenters, were subject to legal discrimination. Her father, a cabinetmaker, died when she was eleven.
She became well known in geological circles in Britain, Europe, and America, and was consulted on issues of anatomy as well as about collecting fossils. Nonetheless, as a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and she did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions.
Indeed, she wrote in a letter: “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.”The only scientific writing of hers published in her lifetime appeared in the Magazine of Natural History in 1839, an extract from a letter that Anning had written to the magazine’s editor questioning one of its claims.
After her death in 1847, her unusual life story attracted increasing interest. Charles Dickens wrote of her in 1865 that “the carpenter’s daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it.” In 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.
~~Impact and legacy~~
Anning’s discoveries became key pieces of evidence for extinction. Georges Cuvier had argued for the reality of extinction in the late 1790s based on his analysis of fossils of mammals such as mammoths. Nevertheless, until the early 1820s it was still believed by many scientifically literate people that just as new species did not appear, so existing ones did not become extinct — in part because they felt that extinction would imply that God’s creation had been imperfect; any oddities found were explained away as belonging to animals still living somewhere in an unexplored region of the earth.
The bizarre nature of the fossils found by Anning, some, such as the plesiosaur, so unlike any known living creature, struck a major blow against this idea.
The ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and pterosaur she found, along with the first dinosaur fossils which were discovered by Gideon Mantell and William Buckland during the same period, showed that during previous eras the earth was inhabited by creatures very different from those living today, and provided important support for another controversial suggestion of Cuvier’s: that there had been an “age of reptiles” when reptiles rather than mammals had been the dominant form of animal life. A phrase that became popular after the publication in 1831 of a paper by Mantell entitled “The Age of Reptiles” that summarised the evidence that there had been an extended geological era when giant reptiles has swarmed the land, air, and sea.
These discoveries also played a key role in the development of a new discipline of geo-historical analysis within geology in the 1820s that sought to understand the history of the earth by using evidence from fossils to reconstruct extinct organisms and the environments in which they lived. This discipline eventually came to be called palaeontology.
Illustrations of scenes from “deep time” (now known as paleoart), such as Henry De la Beche’s ground-breaking painting Duria Antiquior, helped convince people that it was possible to understand life in the distant past. De la Beche had been inspired to create the painting by a vivid description of the food chain of the Lias by William Buckland that was based on analysis of coprolites. The study of coprolites, pioneered by Anning and Buckland, would prove to be a valuable tool for understanding ancient ecosystems.
Throughout the 20th century, beginning with H.A. Forde and his The Heroine of Lyme Regis: The Story of Mary Anning the Celebrated Geologist (1925), a number of writers saw Anning’s life as inspirational.
She was even the basis of Terry Sullivan’s 1908 tongue twister, “She sells seashells,” according to P.J. McCartney in Henry de la Beche (1978)
She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
~~16 Facts About Mary Anning (Fossil Collector)~~
~Google Doodle Special~
~~Published on May 20, 2014~~
16 Facts About Mary Anning (Fossil Collector)
~~Mary Anning Day – September 24th~~
Lyme Regis Museum celebrates Mary Anning Day on Saturday September 24 with a programme of activities and talks that continues into the evening when Tracy Chevalier, author of Remarkable Creatures and Girl with a Pearl Earring talks about the discovery of Mary Anning’s first ichthyosaur 200 years ago.
The museum is open free all day – where you can look Mary’s first ichthyosaur in the eye! (it’s on loan to us from the Natural History Museum in London).