Today in Science
Fossil Collector Mary Anning
Pioneering fossil collector Mary Anning was born on this day in 1799.
Anning lived during a time when geology as a science was just developing. She lived in Lyme Regis, England, an area where fossils lay exposed in cliff faces eroded by the sea. Anning was born to a family with little money or social standing. Despite the social norms of her time, which favored upper-class men as scholars, Anning became an acknowledged leader in fossil collection and identification. Her work helped provide a basis for the key theories upon which the science of geology is based. Called the “Princess of Paleontology” by a contemporary, she sold her fossil finds to tourists and to museums and collectors all over England.
Among her discoveries were a small Ichthyosaurus discovered in 1821 and the first Plesiosaurus, unearthed in 1823. Although Anning’s work was well-respected during her life, her gender and social standing prevented her from becoming a Fellow of the Geological Society, and many of her finds were not credited to her for the historical record.
Learn more with these Science NetLinks resources:
- Ology (K-8)
- Fossils 1: Fossils and Dinosaurs (3-5)
- Fossils 2: Uncovering the Facts (3-5)
- Dinosaur Eggs Discovered! Unscrambling the Clues (6-8)
- 4000 Years of Women in Science (6-12)
- Comparing Species through the Fossil Record (9-12)
- Fossils and Geologic Time (9-12)