Mary Anning Fossil Hunter

Apparently Mary Anning did. Born in 1799, she was the daughter of a cabinet maker and avid fossil hunter. Her father, Richard, taught her and her brother, James, how to wade below the cliffs at low tide to search for fossil specimens — a skill they later relied on to support the family.

At the age of 12, she dug up a 200 million year-old marine reptile — the first complete ichthyosaurus skeleton to be acknowledged by the Geological Society in London.

In the 1820's, she took over the family fossil business — lacking formal schooling — but able to read, write, draw, and reconstruct fossil skeletons.

During much of 19th century Europe, her discoveries of ichthyosaurus and plesiosaurs, alongside the first British pterodactylus macronyx and squaloraja fish, were unwelcome, and even insulting — at a time when many thought “extinct” creatures had merely relocated to the bottom of the ocean.

Male geologists would sometimes publish her findings as their own work. Scientists doubted the validity of her finds, and few were willing to take her seriously until French anatomist Georges Cuvier declared her plesiosaur specimen to be genuine. While she was not trained as a scientist, her finds changed science.

"Her history is incomplete and contradictory. Some accounts of her life have been fictionalized, and her childhood discoveries have been mythologized."

As for the seashells she sold? Invertebrate fossils such as ammonite and belemnite shells.

H/T Atlas Obscura


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