Friday, April 25, 2014

Mary Anning with remarkable intelligence

Mary Anning
Mary Anning, the daughter of Richard and Mary Moore Anning was born on 21st May 1799 in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England. Though the Annings had ten children, it was only Mary and her brother Joseph who survived till they reached adulthood.

On a particular incident on August 19, 1800, Mary miraculously escaped death during a lightning storm and she was one of the four people who had taken shelter under a tree in Rack Field near Lyme Regis and had survived when the tree was struck by lightning.

After the incident, according to local legend it was believed that her intelligence had significantly increased. Richard Anning, her father raised his family by working as a carpenter and a cabinet maker and he used his hobby of collecting fossils, as anotheroption for additional income where he would clean, polish and sell them to the summer tourists.

An Expert at Fossil Hunting

He was in a position to get a good amount of fossils since the area in which he lived was rich with fossils. Besides, the hometown of Lyme Regis was also located on the southwest coast of England and it was believed that about 200 million years ago, that region had been a sea bottom where a large number of dinosaur remains were fossilized after their death.

When the sea level reduced, these fossils were found, in and around the beach and in the areas of the rocky cliffs. Her father would often take Mary and her brother, fossil hunting all around the cliffs of Lyme Regis and would sell their findings to the tourists.

Mary thus became an expert as a fossil hunter and would spend days looking for fossils in the cliffs around the place where she lived.

Coiled Shells – Ammonites - Mollusk

Mary Anning 1
It was Richard who seemed to be the first person to take advantage of this situation for tourist trade which later increased as Lyme Regis became a summer resort seaside town in late 1700s. One of the most popular items which the locals dubbed was curiosities, coiled shells which later on were determined asammonites and were a type of molluskthat lived during the Jurassic period.

 Mary Anning, the British, who became a fossil collector, dealer and a paleontologist gained popularity due to a number of important discoveries she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset near her dwelling place.

She made her contribution to fundamental changes which occurred during her live in scientific thinking with regards to prehistoric life and the history of the earth.

First Discovery - Ichthyosaur

Mary Annings would search for fossils in Blue Lias cliffs’ area especially during winter when landslides would expose new fossils which she would collect quickly before they would be lost in the sea but it was a dangerous task.

 Her first discovery at the age of twelve includeda well preserved, a nearly complete ichthyosaur, a fish lizard, skeleton and the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found; the first pterosaur skeleton was located outside Germany along with some important fish fossils.

Her observations and discoveries were an important part in the findings of coprolites known as bezoar stones of fossilised faeces, at the time. She also made her contributions to the discoveries of belemnite fossils which contained fossilised ink sacs like the modern cephalopods.

Drew the attention of many after her death

She became popular in geological in Britain, America and Europe and was looked upon with issues related to anatomy and collection of fossils.

Being a woman she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London nor did she receive credit for her scientific contribution whereupon she made a statement in one of her letters saying `the world hasused me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone’.

The only writing which seemed to be published during her lifetime was in the Magazine of Natural History, an extract from one of her letter which she had written to the magazine’s editor, questioning on one of its claims in 1839.She drew the attention of many after her death in 1847 after succumbing to breast cancer.

Her Legacy Still Alive

In 1865, Charles Dickens wrote that `the carpenter’s daughter had won a name for herself and deserved to win it’. One hundred and sixty three years after her death, in 2010, the Royal Society added her name in the list of the ten British women who had influenced the most in the history of science. Her legacy still remains alive over the years.

The famous tongue twister `she sells sea shells on the seashore was said to be written with her in mind. Fifteen years after her death, the scientist of the Geological Society of London gave a stained glass window in her honour to the church in Lyme Regis which depicted the six corporal acts of mercy. Towards late twentieth century, the Lyme Regis Museum was erected, which was a home to Anning earlier, its main purpose being the preservation of her legacy.

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