Who was Mary Anning?

This is Mary Anning.

  • She was famous for finding fossils.

  • She lived by the sea in the town of Lyme Regis in Dorset.

  • Mary was the first person to find a whole Ichthyosaurus skeleton.

  • You can see this at the Natural History Museum in London.

  • Mary found many more ancient creatures in her life, including a long-necked sea reptile called a plesiosaur and a flying reptile called a Dimorphodon.

Watch: The life of Mary Anning

What did Mary Anning do?

  • Mary Anning was born in May 1799.
  • Her father was a cabinet maker who sold fossils to tourists. He died when Mary was 10.
  • When Mary was 12, her brother Joseph dug up the skull of a ichthyosaurus (which means ‘fish lizard’).
  • The skull was more than a metre long.
  • Later, Mary found the rest of the skeleton. She sold it for £23 (around £1,400 today).
  • Mary would spend her time searching the beach looking for what she called ‘curiosities’. Later in her life, she realised they were actually fossils.
  • When Mary was 27, she opened her own shop. It was called Anning’s Fossil Depot.
  • She worked with geologists (people who study the earth).
  • Mary was not allowed to join groups of scientists because she was a woman. Her name was missed out of books.
  • She changed the way we think about the history of the earth.

Did you know?

  • When Mary was a toddler, a woman holding her was struck by lightning! Mary survived.
  • Mary had a dog called Tray, who she took with her when she searched for fossils.
  • Nowadays, thousands of tourists visit Lyme Regis every year to search for fossils on the beach.

Activity – Mary Anning quiz