Spinster Mary Anning, uneducated and poor, was of the wrong sex, wrong class and wrong religion, but fate decreed that she was exactly the right person in the right place and time to pioneer the emerging science of palaeontology, the study of fossils. Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, Mary learned to collect fossils with her cabinet-maker father. The unstable cliffs and stealthy sea made the task dangerous but after her father died the sale of fossils sustained her family. Mary’s fame started as an infant when she survived a lightning strike that killed the three adults around her. Then, aged twelve, she caught the public’s attention when she unearthed the skeleton of a ‘fish lizard’ or Ichthyosaurus. She later found the first Plesiosaurus giganteus, with its extraordinary long neck associated with the Loch Ness monster, and, dramatically, she unearthed the first, still rare, Dimorphodon macronyx, a frightening ‘flying dragon’ with hand claws and teeth. Yet her many discoveries were announced to the world by male geologists like the irrepressible William Buckland and Sir Henry De La Beche and they often received the credit. In Jurassic Mary Patricia Pierce redresses this imbalance, bringing to life the extraordinary, little-known story of this determined and pioneering woman.
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