Wonderful Women in STEM – Mary Anning

The next scientist in my Wonderful Women in STEM series is the pioneering Mary Anning!

Mary Anning has been named one of the 10 most influential British women in science history by the Royal Society. Mary was a trailblazer in her time and made invaluable contributions to palaeontology despite having no formal education and being a woman at a time when female scientists were almost unheard of.

Mary is now recognised as one of the first and most important palaeontologists in history.

Who was Mary Anning?

Mary Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, England. Lyme Regis is part of a stretch of coastline known as the Jurassic Coast, which is famous for fossils. Mary and her father collected and sold shells and fossils to tourists to supplement their income. At the time, nobody really knew what the fossils were. Mary was curious about the fossils she found. She sketched and made notes of her discoveries and became an expert in prehistoric creatures.

Mary Anning (1799-1847), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1812, Mary discovered a complete Ichthyosaurus.

In 1823 she discovered the first complete Plesiosaurus.

In 1824 Mary realised that bezoar stones were fossilised dinosaur poo.

Mary opened a shop called, Annings Fossil Depot in 1826. At the time, it was unusual for women to have a business.

In 1828, Mary discovered a pterosaur.

Mary faced many difficulties and obstacles in her life and career. She was from a poor family with no formal education, which meant she couldn’t join scientific societies, or attend university lectures, and she wasn’t always fully credited for her findings.

Mary sadly died of breast cancer in 1847, at age 47.

In 2022 a statue of Mary Anning was unveiled in Lyme Regis to celebrate the achievements of this remarkable woman.

Make a model ammonite

Ammonites were sea creatures that lived before and at the same time as dinosaurs. They were a bit like a modern-day squid or octopus with a shell. Ammonite fossils have been found all over the world and are common in the Lyme Reis area.

You’ll need

Air drying clay

Clay tool

How to make a clay ammonite

Roll the clay into a long sausage shape and coil it up like the shell of a snail.

Use a clay tool to make marks along the spiral.

Leave to dry.

clay model of an ammonite

Mary Anning Fact File

Mary Anning Fact File and Activity

What is a palaeontologist?

A palaeontologist is a scientist who studies fossils.

What is a fossil?

Fossils are the preserved remains of animals and plants that lived a long time ago. Fossils form over millions of years when minerals fill the space in skeletons and footprints left by prehistoric creatures.

When was the word dinosaur first used?

The word dinosaur was first used by a palaeontologist named Richard Owen in 1842. The name comes from the Greek word Deinos which means terrible, and Saurus, which means lizard.

What is a bezoar?

Bezoars are fossilised poo, also known as coprolite.

This post is part of my wonderful women in STEM series.

Image of a Mary Anning fact file and ammonite fossil

Last Updated on June 29, 2023 by Emma Vanstone