Anning was only twelve years old when, in 1811, she discovered the
first dinosaur skeleton - of an ichthyosaur - while fossil hunting
on the cliffs of Lyme Regis, England.
Until Mary's incredible discovery, it was widely believed that animals
did not become extinct. The child of a poor family, Mary became a
fossil hunter, inspiring the tongue-twister, “She Sells Sea
Shells by the Seashore.” She attracted the attention of fossil
collectors and eventually the scientific world. Once news of the
fossils reached the halls of academia, it became impossible to ignore
|Mary’s peculiar finds helped lay the groundwork for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, laid out in his On the Origin of Species.
Darwin drew on Mary’s fossilized creatures as irrefutable
evidence that life in the past was nothing like life in the
A story worthy of Dickens, The Fossil Hunter
chronicles the life of this young girl, with dirt under her fingernails
and not a shilling to buy dinner, who became a world-renowned
paleontologist. Dickens himself said of Mary: “The carpenter's
daughter has won a name for herself, and deserved to win it."
Here at last, Shelley Emling returns Mary Anning, of whom Stephen J.
Gould remarked, is “probably the most important unsung (or
inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of
paleontology,” to her deserved place in history.
The Fossil Hunter
Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World
by Shelley Emling
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011