You may have noticed that London’s famous Natural History Museum recently introduced a new exhibit full of ancient marvels. But who is the explorer the exhibit is named after? Who is Mary Anning?
Until recently, not many had heard of the name Mary Anning. This is most likely a result of the social stratification which existed in the 19th century. At this time, many classes of society were overlooked - including the poor, nonconformists and, most prominently, women. Being all of those three, Mary’s discoveries and achievements were given no credit for decades, even centuries, and were instead attributed to the rich men who commented on them.
However, we now know Mary Anning herself was the real founder of many ancient marvels
Born in 1799, Mary helped her father sell the fossils they discovered on the Dorset coast. When her father died, Mary and her brother Joseph took this business upon themselves - and found great success. In 1811, at just 12 years old, Mary and her brother uncovered the 16ft fossil of a sea monster now known as the ‘Ichthyosaurus’ amongst other crucial discoveries.
Within just a few years, Mary’s advice and expertise was sought by those from all over. While this knowledge was then used as the basis for many academic papers, their authors were almost always rich men who failed to credit their source. With women not allowed to join certain scientific groups, her findings were also discussed and debated but without her presence.
But Mary did not let her humble background hold her back
Living near Dorset’s ‘Jurassic Coast’, Mary would find a number of fossils from huge reptiles who once inhabited the area for its rich source of squid and fish. When they died, their bodies were fossilised on the seabed, and as tectonic activity forced land upwards, these fossils were then ready for Mary to discover.
However, it wasn’t always as easy as it sounds. Once, while scouring the coast, Mary was injured in a landslide which sadly took the life of her loyal dog Tray. But this did not stop the young pioneer - whose lifetime of discoveries is finally being appreciated.
At Koala Chess Art, we admire Mary Anning and all of the other great pioneers who fell victim to a short-sighted society. We can only hope now, in 2019, that we can congratulate the incredible scientists and explorers of our time, regardless of their gender, race, income or religion. May we all show such determination in the face of adversity.
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