Mary Anning

1799 - 1847

Mary Anning was a pioneering palaeontologist who became globally renowned for important finds made along the Dorset coast. Her discoveries were some of the most significant geological finds of all time.


Mary Anning

Mary Anning started fossil collecting in her home town of Lyme Regis, when she was very young. With very little formal education she became an avid fossil collector and dealer, and pioneered the study of coprolites (fossilised faeces). Her growing knowledge and expertise became sought after by many people in the field. However, although Anning’s work informed that of her male contemporaries, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London, and did not always receive credit for her work.

Mary Anning’s most significant discoveries included the first complete plesiosaur skeleton and the Ichthyosaurus or ‘fish lizard’, a marine reptile that lived between 250 and 90 million years ago. Anning also unearthed a partial skeleton of a pterosaur, the first pterosaur skeleton found outside Germany.

Anning’s incredible discoveries influenced how we understand prehistoric life and extinction.


Mary Anning's Ichthyosaur


As picked by...


Ellena Grillo, Exhibitions Officer