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Academic & Professional Books  Palaeontology  Palaeontology: General

The Fossil Hunter Dinosaurs, Evolution and the Woman whose Discoveries Changed the World

Out of Print
By: Shelley Emling(Author)
234 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Palgrave
The Fossil Hunter
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  • The Fossil Hunter ISBN: 9780230103429 Paperback Jan 2011 Out of Print #190840
  • The Fossil Hunter ISBN: 9780230611566 Hardback Aug 2009 Out of Print #181241
About this book Contents Biography Related titles

About this book

In 1811, when she was only twelve years old, Mary Anning discovered the first dinosaur skeleton – of an ichthyosaur – while fossil hunting on the cliffs of Lyme Regis. Mary, the child of a poor family, became a fossil hunter, selling her discoveries and attracting the attention of fossil collectors and eventually the scientific world. Until Mary's discovery, it was widely believed that animals did not become extinct. But the bizarre nature of the fossils Mary found made it impossible to ignore the truth, sparking the conversation about evolution carried on by scientists from Charles Darwin to Stephen Jay Gould.


- Prologue
- Snakestones, Thunderbolts, and Verteberries
- A Fantastic Beast
- An Unimaginable World
- A Great Kindness
- A Long-Necked Beauty
- The Hidden Mysteries of Coprolites
- Finally, The Big City Of London
- An Amazing New Fish
- Spilling Secrets
- Esteemed Visitors
- The Earth Moves
- The Making Of A Legend
- Epilogue
- Timeline

Customer Reviews


Shelley Emling has been a journalist for twenty years, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fortune, Slate, and The International Herald Tribune. She lives in London, UK.

Out of Print
By: Shelley Emling(Author)
234 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Palgrave
Media reviews

"Emling writes with a style that makes The Fossil Hunter very hard to put down before reaching the last page."
Winnepeg Free Press

"Readable, journalistic, Emling's amply footnoted book skillfully puts Anning's work into the scientific and sociological context."
The New York Times

"Released just weeks after Tracy Chevalier's fictional account of Anning's life, Emling's account pays tribute to Anning in an original and gripping historical biography."
Financial Times

"Dinosaurs are astonishing today – and we've had several hundred years of biology to help us absorb the shock. Imagine the shock caused by these monster creatures discovered and presented by a poor, twelve-year old girl, in the early 19th century. This is the remarkable story that Emling tells so well, evoking a world far from ours that in just a few years took a destitute pre-teen scavenging the crumbling cliffs of Lyme Regis to the pages of the leading scientific journals of her time."
– Peter Galison, author of Einstein's Clock's and Poincare's Maps and Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University

"Shelley Emling vividly brings to life the fascinating story of Mary Anning, the greatest fossil hunter of the early nineteenth century. Anning single-handedly recovered an extraordinary collection of fossils of marine and flying reptiles that helped shape the way we now see the incredibly long history of life on Earth. With this enjoyable book, Emling gives Anning her deserved place in history."
– Hans Sues, Associate Director of Research and Collections, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

"The Fossil Hunter at long last brings to life one of the central figures in the early golden age of paleontological discovery – a woman of great diligence, and passion, and with a keen eye for fossil bone in the rock. As a young child, I was greatly inspired by Mary Anning. As an adult, working paleontologist, I remain so, a conviction doubtless reinforced by Shelley Emling's fascinating book."
– Michael Novacek, Provost, American Museum of Natural History

"Emling does an excellent job of knitting together a highly readable title on her life, reaching into sources for Anning's contemporaries and scientific publications from the time which describes the fossils she found. It is rare that readers discover someone like them who changed the world. That's Mary Anning however, and as Shelley Emling shows, it wasn't easy. But she did it anyway and now, at last, we can appreciate how. [...] We know so much because of Mary Anning, but as Emling makes clear, we sadly know very little about Mary Anning, something the author does a wonderful job of changing here."

"Emling tells a fascinating tale [...] she marshals an immense amount of information about the world of 19th-century geology and paleontology, detailing the controversies about the meaning of the layers of rock and the increasing evidence that animals can indeed become extinct [...] Valuable because it trains a well-deserved spotlight on Anning, explicates some of the philosophical dilemmas of 19th-century science, and incidentally, also notes several other women who became expert fossil hunters and collectors."
The Washington Times

"A well-written book is one of the most effective, and enjoyable, ways to become acquainted with the women who made such gains in history, but have yet to be fully recognized for their significant contributions. Shelley Emling has written such a book."
National Women's History Project

"Shelley Emling's biography rescues this woman from undeserved obscurity and presents an accessible history of nineteenth century scientific achievement."
The Tablet

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