Another book about Mary Anning

In 2011 it will be 200 years since Mary Anning, the twelve year old daughter of an impoverished carpenter, discovered a fossilised Icthyosaurus skeleton on the beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth. Mary Anning’s role in precipitating the dinosaur craze and contributing to the dawn of palaeontology is a remarkable one. Friend of and collaborator with William Buckland, Louis Agassiz and Charles Lyall her personal and scientific achievements were astonishing for someone of her social situation and gender. Shelley Emling has just published a biography, The Fossil Hunter, which would make good companion read to Tracy Chevalier’s recent novel, Remarkable Creatures. One curious thing that I have noticed is that nearly all those who write about that time make much of all the superstitions associated with fossils before anyone knew what they actually were- they were associated with the devil and were thought to have healing properties. And that at the very same time as places such as Lyme became popular with society’s elite because Dr Richard Russell insisted that sea-water was a cure-all. Some superstitions are apparently of a rather superior sort!

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