Mary Anning: Google doodle celebrates fossil collector and paleontologist's 215th birthday

 

Google has celebrated the 215th birthday of Mary Anning, the British fossil collector and paleontologist.

The image shows Anning brushing dirt away from a giant dinosaur skeleton that spells out ‘Google’, while her tools rest in a basket beside her.

Anning made some of the most significant geological discoveries of all time, including crocodile-like ichthyosaurs.

Anning was born to dissenters Richard Anning and Mary Moore in Lyme Regis, Dorset, on 21 May 1799. She and her brother Joseph were the only survivors among 10 children born to their parents. Anning was named after her sister who died in a house fire.

In August 1800, at just 15 months old, Anning was hit by a lightning strike that killed three other people - an incident that became part of local lore, and that was said to have turned her into a particularly bright child.

 

Anning was taught how to search for fossils by her carpenter father. In the summer, the pair would sell the specimens they collected to middle class holidaymakers from a stall on the seafront in Lyme.

After her father died in 1810, aged 44, Anning supplemented her family’s minuscule income by continuing to run the stall.

Her first major excavation came in 1811, when her brother Joseph found a skull in a cliff. Mary spent months excavating the creature’s bones, and discovered a ‘crocodile’, later named ichthyosaurs, ‘fish-lizard’.

The local lord of the manor, Henry Hoste Henley, sold the specimen to William Bullock for his Museum of Curiosities in London, bringing Anning to the attention of contemporary scientists.

Her fame was secured in 1820 when one of the family’s patrons auctioned specimens he had bought from the Annings - drawing interest in Anning from Britain and across Europe.

Despite her humble beginnings, Anning was literate and taught herself about geology and anatomy, and was recognised as an eminent figure, both by leading scientists and members of the public in her lifetime.

Later, Anning would go on to find more complete ichthyosaurs skeletons, a long-necked Plesiosaurus, and a Pterodactyl.

Anning died in 1847 from breast cancer, aged 47.

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