One of our two launch models was the Anning – inspired by the British scientific pioneer Mary Anning.
I have to be honest, until my ten-year-old daughter read about Mary in the Anthology of Amazing Women and decided to go to school on World Book Day dressed as her, I had only heard the name, but didn’t know very much at all about her – let alone the critical role she played in our understanding of prehistoric creatures and the history of the earths.
Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, Mary initially helped her father Richard sell the fossils he gathered on the Dorset coast, selling them to wealthy collectors and tourists. When her father died, Mary was just eleven years old, yet she and her brother Joseph took over the business, soon discovering one of the most important fossils ever found – the 16ft fossil of what would become known as Ichthyosaurus.
This was followed by other major finds, including plesiosaurs and pterosaurs, which all played an important role in the debate around the idea of extinction that had just been proposed by the French naturalist Georges Cuvier.
Despite this, there is only one known text by Mary that was published in her lifetime - an extract from a letter to the editor in the Magazine of Natural History in 1839, in which she questioned one of its claims.
In recent years, Mary Anning’s story and the role she played in our understanding of prehistoric creatures and the history of the earth has started to be recognised, and she is now included in the national curriculum. In 2010, the Royal Society also included her in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.
More recently, Mary has also become a character on screen, with the release of the Ammonite movie in late 2020, and the ‘Mary Anning Rocks’ campaign, created by an eleven-year-old schoolgirl, is fundraising to erect a statue in Lyme Regis and create a learning legacy in her name.
This year marks the 222nd anniversary of the birth of Mary Anning, the British scientific pioneer, and we’re proud to say that she’s one of the British pioneers who inspires us at Winton…