Thursday, 21 October 2010

Mary Anning, the fossil hunter from Lyme

A contemporary sketch done of Mary Anning at work. By Henry de la Beche.
Mary Anning
Mary Anning lived at the same time as Jane Austen, in Lyme Regis in Dorset. A place Jane knew well. Part of Persuasion is set in Lyme. Jane's father, The Reverend Austen, knew Mary Anning's father. Whether Jane ever met Mary is unsure.

Here is a quote from the Wikipaedia article about Mary Anning.

"Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was a British fossil collector, dealer and palaeontologist who became known around the world for having made a number of important finds in the Jurassic-era marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis where she lived.[2] Her work contributed to the fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the earth that occurred in the early 19th century."

It is interesting to note that Mary was inspired to prove her local vicar in Lyme wrong.He was what we might term a "creationist," today. He thought the world was created in six days.Mary's work later inspired people like Charles Darwin. At the time of Mary Anning and Jane Austen people thought the world was only a few thousand years old. Mary Anning's discoveries contradicted this idea.

She struggled throughout her life to be recognised. This Wikipaedia article does her justice and I think is worth reading. It not only gives an incite into the life of Mary Anning but also the beliefs of her time.

The BBC and The Royal Society, are commemorating 200 years since Mary Anning discovered her first fossil on the Dorset coast near Lyme.


  1. I used to want to visit Lyme because of the Austen connection, now I want to because of Mary Anning. I loved Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures and would love to walk along the coast line.

  2. I am really interested in Mary Anning and have mentioned her in two of my novels. Tracy Chevalier's book is on my TBR list. Thanks for the post.