Mary Anning: She Sells Seashells by the Seashore

By | October 11, 2018

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Katherine Hamilton portraying Mary Anning (Natural History Museum)

The tongue-twister that none of us can say…did you know that it is more than just an impossible to pronounce sentence? The tongue-twister actually refers to a real person, a person who did much more than simply sell seashells. The ‘she’ in the tongue-twister is Mary Anning, one of the foremost fossil hunters who contributed greatly to the emerging field of paleontology. Yet Anning’s work was largely ignored by the scientific community because of her gender and her low socio-economic background. 

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Who Was Mary Anning?

Born in Lyme Regis on the southern shore of England in 1799, Mary Anning grew up uneducated and impoverished. Her father, Richard Anning, helped to supplement the family’s meager income by searching the beaches and seaside cliffs of Lyme Regis for unique fossilized shells and other curiosities, which he sold to the wealthy Londoners who spent their summers in the area. It was from her father that Mary Anning inherited a keen eye for spotting fossils among the rocks.