2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM


SAUPE, Erin E.1, FOX, Kelly M.2 and DAVIS, Larry E.1, (1)Geology, College of St. Benedict/ St. John's Univ, Collegeville, MN 56321, (2)Department of Geology, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN 56374, eesaupe@csbsju.edu

This past year, delegates to the bi-annual convention of Sigma Gamma Epsilon voted to include Mary Anning as one of the important historical icons of the Society. According to the late Stephen J. Gould, Mary Anning is “probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of paleontology”. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a glimpse into the life of Mary Anning and her contributions to paleontology.

“Mary Anning: The Greatest Fossilist the World Ever Knew” is from the title of Hugh Torrens' presidential address to the British Society for the History of Science. Hugh Torrens has devoted a good deal of his professional career seeking the truth behind the myth of Mary Anning's life and her contributions. According to Torrens (1995), “Mary Anning has inspired a wide range of people and should continue to, if only as a fine representative of the 50 per cent of humanity who got such meagre deals in the world of men”. Although Mary Anning's contributions of specimens to collections and museums of paleontology are well known, she is seldom the collector of record. At a very early age, Mary Anning became a self-taught “hunter” of fossils which she sold to collectors, who ultimately received credit as donors. Most notable of her recognized contributions include three complete Ichthyosaurs, two Plesiosaurs, a large number of coprolites (which she correctly identified as fossil feces), the cephalopod Belemnosepia (complete with ink sac), Pterodactylus macronyx (the first British example of a pterosaur), the fossil fish Squaloraja (seen as a transition between sharks and rays), and Pleisiosaurus macrocephalus (her last major discovery). Mary Anning broke through the overwhelmingly male-dominated field of geology nearly two centuries before women became common in the field. Rightfully, she now stands with Lyell, Agricola, and Werner as icons of geology for Sigma Gamma Epsilon.