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Profile of the Day: Mary Anning

Remember the tongue twister, “She sells seashells on the seashore?” On this day 220 years ago, Mary Anning, the English fossil collector and pioneering paleontologist who inspired the tongue twister, was born.

Profile of the Day: Mary Anning

Mary Anning / Wikimedia Commons

Anning grew up in the coastal town of Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. Her father, Richard Anning, was a cabinetmaker and supplemented his income by selling curiosities found along the coastal cliffside near the town to tourists. After his death, the family was left destitute and relied on charity to survive. To help support her family, Anning continued to collect and sell fossils she found on the seashore cliffs despite the danger of landslides.

With the cliffs rich in Jurassic fossils, Anning became well known amongst geologists for her incredible finds. Some of her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton, the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany, and many more. Her discoveries would play a significant role in understanding prehistoric life. Despite her contributions to the field, she was often overlooked in the scientific community and was not able to join the Geological Society of London because she was a woman.

Anning died on March 9, 1847 at the age of 47. Today she is remembered as one of the greatest fossile hunters in history.

Explore Mary Anning’s family tree and share how you’re related!

View Mary Anning’s Geni Profile


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