Artefact of the month - June 2009
Letter from Mary Anning to William Buckland
This month’s artefact is unusual in that it has little to do with ZSL directly. In the ZSL Archives there are a few donated collections, including this one: some of the papers of the Buckland family. One of these letters is to the geologist (and Dean of Westminster) William Buckland, from the famous fossil hunter, Mary Anning.
Born in 1797, Mary Anning lived and worked in Lyme Regis. After the early death of her fossil collector father, she had to take up the trade herself in order to support her impoverished family. It was dangerous work, avoiding the landslides and treacherous seas. She had a narrow escape when a cliff collapsed, crushing her faithful dog.
In fact, she had a number of escapes as a child, being, with her brother, the only survivors of ten siblings. Also, she survived being struck by lightning when a young girl, although three of her companions were killed.
Her significance lies in her important fossil finds of the Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus and the Pterodactylus. The discovery of these fossils of extinct animals helped to revolutionise geological thinking, eventually challenging the biblical story of creation.
She corresponded with many eminent geologists, such as William Buckland. This letter is undated, but mentions the Ichthyosaurus.
Mary Anning died in 1847.
If you wish to see this letter, or any other archives, please contact the Archivist, who will be happy to show you.
Visting the Library
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