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When she was just 12, Mary Anning and her brother Joseph found the skeleton of an ichthyosaur, a fossilised marine reptile. It was the most complete specimen known to science and it caused an uproar.
Anning continued her fossil hunting, scouring the dangerous Jurassic cliffs at Lyme Regis and selling the ‘curios’ she unearthed to support her family. Her bread and butter were smaller fossils, such as ammonites and belemnites, which she sold in her shop. She found many peculiar ‘bezoar stones’, which she realised were fossilised faeces, now known as coprolites.
Anning also discovered the first plesiosaur, another marine reptile. This one had such a long neck, with 35 vertebrae, that one scientists was sure it must have been a hoax. Anning’s find was authenticated, though, and in 1830 she found a second, more complete skeleton. She also found the first pterodactyl outside of Germany.
Many of the fossils she found became famous, but Anning was rarely credited for her work and her contributions to palaeontology were not widely recognised, although some of her male peers did try to get her not just the recognition but the financial compensation that she deserved. She’s now seen as one of palaeontology’s greatest pioneers.
You can read more about Mary Anning in our book, More Passion for Science: Journeys into the Unknown, and on our website.
About Ada Lovelace Day
Ada Lovelace Day is a global celebration of the achievements of women in STEM. Held every year on the second Tuesday in October, it features a flagship ‘science cabaret’ event in London, and dozens of independently organised events around the world, as well as hundreds of blog posts about women whose work is worthy of admiration. Our aim is to raise the profile of women in STEM and create new role models for girls and women alike.
All proceeds from our RedBubble sales go towards supporting Ada Lovelace Day and our work to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers and to support the women who have made it their career.