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Mary Anning
 Ceramic Sculpture   
12” x 14” x 8"

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Mary Anning (1799–1847)

Mary Anning was a British fossil collector and paleontologist who became known for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic fossil beds in Dorset, England where she lived. Her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified when she was just twelve years old. She also is credited with finding the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found, the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany, and important fish fossils. Her work contributed to changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. Anning's gender and social class prevented her from fully participating in the scientific community of 19th-century Britain, that was dominated by wealthy gentlemen.

She struggled financially for much of her life. Her family was poor, and as religious dissenters, they were subject to legal discrimination. Her father died when she was eleven. She became well known in geological circles in Britain, Europe, and America, and was consulted on issues of anatomy and fossil collecting. As a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions. Indeed, she wrote in a letter: "The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone."

In 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society of England included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.