Happy Birthday to Mary Anning (1799-1847) a fossil collector and paleontologist from Great Britain who not only made significant discoveries, she is thought to have developed a theory of evolution that predates Charles Darwin. Because she was a woman, however, she didn’t have access to an academic forum in which she could discuss her ideas and many of her achievements went largely unrecognized because she was a woman. In her time, many assumed it was not possible – or proper – for a woman to pursue science or even discuss scientific ideas.
An avid fossil collector from a poor background, Anning collected fossils because of her fascination with them and also to help support her family, who ran a cabinetry business and small rock shop.
Despite the cultural and economic obstacles she faced, Anning gained recognition for discovering the Ichthyosaur alongside her brother Joseph when she was just 12 years old, and she continued to discover, study and write about fossils and paleontology throughout her life. She uncovered evidence of the first Plesiosaur, which was significant enough to be presented at Britain’s prestigious Geological Society but was done so without crediting her for the discovery or any of her subsequent work with those fossils.
In 1908, long after Mary Anning’s death, poet Terry Williams was so inspired by her life story that he wrote a poem in her honor that can be heard on playgrounds and shorelines the world over:
She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
It may not do justice to her life and accomplishments, but maybe it will lead young scientists and adventurers to learn more about her extraordinary life. Kids can explore Mary Anning’s life and discoveries through the adventures of Benson and Anita in Tumblehome Learning‘s The Case of the Fraudulent Fossil, on sale at a special price now!