Described as 'the greatest fossilist the world ever knew', a fully illustrated biography of Mary Anning is long overdue. Drawing on recent research into her life and times, yet always aware of her character and personality, Tom Sharpe has taken a fresh and often surprising look at the achievements of a woman who is finally gaining the recognition she merits.
Mary Anning was born in 1799 in the Dorset town of Lyme Regis, dying there when only forty-seven. She made her living finding and selling fossils. Her remarkable discoveries revealed a previously unknown world of extinct reptiles preserved in the surrounding cliffs and foreshore, thus helping turning our knowledge of life on earth on its head. Despite her humble origins and lack of education, when still in her early twenties she became a leading figure in the geological community of the early nineteenth century, and was known throughout Europe.
Mary Anning's knowledge and skill brought few advantages. Condemned by inequalities of class, gender, and wealth, she never reaped the rewards enjoyed by her fellow geologists and palaeontologists – rewards all too often won on the back of her discoveries. After her death she gradually slipped into relative obscurity, her name losing its link to the fossils she found.
Happily, that has all changed. Recently she was included on a list of the ten most influential women in the history of British science. Her reputation continues to grow, and this new biography celebrates the life of someone who has at last taken her rightful place in the astonishing story of fossils and the 200 million-year-old Jurassic world in which they were formed.