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Mary Anning: Biography, Facts & Quotes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson discusses the personal life, facts, and quotes of Mary Anning. You'll learn how she barely survived as a child and how she succeeded in life.

Mary Anning

You can think of her as a kind of Indiana Jones. Mary Anning was an important early fossil hunter who discovered several dinosaurs. This lesson, however, doesn't focus on her professional work and impressive contributions. Instead, we discuss her personal life, or what little is known of it.

Early Personal Life

Mary Anning was born on May 21, 1799 in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England to Mary Moore and Richard Anning. Her father was a carpenter who made cabinets and furniture but also collected fossils every now and then to sell for extra cash.

The family was poor and had nine children, so they needed all the money they could get. Sadly, only Mary and a brother named Joseph survived into adulthood. In fact, Mary was named after a sister she never met who died in a house fire before Mary was even born.

Near Brush with Death

Actually, Mary almost died herself when she was just a baby! Believe it or not, on August 19th, 1800, a woman was holding Mary at a fair. Suddenly, a thunderstorm rolled in and lightning began to strike the ground. Mary, the woman holding Mary, and two other people sought shelter under an elm tree. Bad idea. One lightning bolt struck the fairgrounds and killed the woman holding Mary and the two other people. Mary miraculously escaped unharmed.

Early Interest in Fossils

Mary grew up not far from the seashore. When she was little, her dad would take her to the beach. Here, Mary learned a lot of useful things from her father. She had a limited education in general, and her few years of formal education certainly didn't focus on fossils.

At the seashore, Mary found interesting shells, fossils, and stones, which she and her family would sell to seaside vacationers. This was less of a hobby and more of a job for her, especially after her dad, the family breadwinner, unfortunately died in 1810 by falling off of a cliff.

Not even a year later, near where her father passed away, Mary and Joseph discovered a skull and an entire skeleton. It turned out to be an ichthyosaurus, or the so-called fish lizard.

Later Personal Life

Mary Anning's life as a fossil collector and hunter began in prime time. Over many years to come, she'd go on to find many other important fossils, and many of these ended up making the news. Her finds were so impressive, she became a sort of celebrity in her day. As a result, tourists, collectors, and scientists would visit Lyme Regis to buy fossils from her.

Mary Anning and her dog Tray.
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Mary established her own business around her fossil finds. It drew plenty of tourists and scientists. She was known for having a great understanding of fossils and for being a shrewd businesswoman.

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