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The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  722 ratings  ·  96 reviews
At a time when women were excluded from science, a young girl made a discovery that marked the birth of paleontology and continues to feed the debate about evolution to this day.
Mary Anning was only twelve years old when, in 1811, she discovered the first dinosaur skeleton--of an ichthyosaur--while fossil hunting on the cliffs of Lyme Regis, England. Until Mary's inc
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published (first published October 13th 2009)
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Betty Her name is Elizabeth Philpot, a 19th century British fossil collector and paleontologist. Read Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and you'll…moreHer name is Elizabeth Philpot, a 19th century British fossil collector and paleontologist. Read Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and you'll learn more about her.(less)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Give this about a 3.5 star rating for my general reading experience. I knew the basic outlines of Mary Anning’s story—a woman with a talent for finding marine reptile fossils, held back by her social status, her lack of access to education, and her gender. In a world which favoured wealthy men with leisure time, she was at a tremendous disadvantage and achieved a great deal despite that.

This book filled in the gaps in my knowledge of the woman and made me admire her fortitude all the
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
The story of Mary Anning is definitely one that needs to be known as she was an integral part of our understanding of the earth's history but while this book helps to bring her story forward, it's not the best written story. I find it distracting to read "she most likely" or "she probably". I know we can't possibly know for certain what someone did and said but I prefer my non-fiction to read more like a story and not possibilities. Despite this, the story of Mary Anning is very interesting and ...more
I recently read Tracy Chevalier’s newest book Remarkable Creatures, the story of Mary Anning, a woman I had never heard of but is getting the attention she so richly deserved. I enjoyed Remarkable Creatures so much I was very happy to learn of this biography of her life. For anyone who doesn’t normally like nonfiction I would recommend this book, it is written in a very accessible style and the story is so astonishing it reads like fiction. Emling has written a book that I found easy to read and ...more
Friederike Knabe
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In 1999, the two hundredth birthday of Mary Anning, "the first woman geologist", was marked with a modest celebratory event in the small Philpot Museum in her home town, Lyme Regis, on England's southern shore. It led, eventually, to renewed interest in the life and time of this unique young woman, who despite being of the poorest background and without formal education, contributed in the most extraordinary way to the advancement of science and understanding of life on earth. Shelley Emling, re ...more
This is a book about Mary Anning. What?!? You’ve never heard of her? But she discovered the first ichthyosaur; the first plesiosaur, too. She was well-known throughout Europe in the early 1800’s. In fact, Charles Dickens himself wrote an article about her. The tongue-twister, “She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore” was inspired by her.

Still doesn’t ring a bell? Well, no surprise there. I’d never heard of her, and I’m into this sort of stuff. It’s a pity that the woman who made so man
I am so so interested in Mary Anning but I can't go on with this book. The author has a severe bias against religion in general and Christianity specifically. The writing drove me crazy--she hardly tells us what Mary did, instead she states what Mary "likely did" or "would have felt." Those two phrases are used on almost every stinking page.
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paleontology
Despite a few narrative flaws, this is an absolutely fascinating story of a young woman doesn’t get the social or scientific recognition she deserves. Coming in, I knew just enough about Mary Anning to want to know more. I knew she was the subject of Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures(which is next on my reading list), but I wanted to start with something more straightforwardly biographical, before moving into the novelised version of her life.

Since I don’t want them to be the focus of my revie
Elsie Hulsizer
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This biography of the woman who unearthed the first Ichthyosaurus is both a deeply moving personal story of the overcoming of poverty and illiteracy and a fascinating history of the period immediately preceding Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, England laid the groundwork for the theory of evolution by her relentless efforts to chisel fossils out of the chalk cliffs of Southern England. Pushed by the need to earn a living from the sale of fossils and spurred on by the steady
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chez-moi
This book tells the fascinating story of Mary Anning, a woman who made several important early fossil finds of dinosaurs and other creatures on the southern coast of England in the early to mid 1800s. Mary had just a few years' formal education and was largely a self-made paleontologist - however, because of her status as a woman (and as a very poor woman, even), she both never received the recognition she deserved nor her due place alongside her male contemporaries in the science world. As a wo ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the history of science, women's history or natural history
"The fossil Hunter" explores the life of Mary Anning, a lower-class woman from the south of England who changed paleontology with her numerous and spectacular fossil finds. One of the main themes of the book, and Mary Anning's life, was her relationship with many of the professional paleontologists of England, who were invariably well-educated and rich. Many of these paleontologists respected Mary as a skilled and knowledgable fossil hunter and paleontologist. However, they never gave her credit ...more
Adam Rollins
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like the real world version of a science minded Lizzie Bennett better than the fictional one. Plus, in this version, Mr Darcy is a fossilized sea reptile, so much more plausible.
Mary Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, England. She and her father would walk along the short and hunt for fossils. When she was 12, she discovered an entire dinosaur skeleton, the first one (or one of the first)! They weren’t yet called dinosaurs, but she continued to hunt for fossils throughout her life (to sell them so she could support her mother and brother after her father died). She was mostly not recognized for everything she’d done, as she was a woman. It was a time when evolution ...more
Mary Anning is such an important person in the world of palaeontology. She discovered many new species of extinct animal but was never regonised for her contribution to science in a time and world dominated by men. Men who would actively seek Mary out to gain a greater knowledge on the environment and fossils, but never gave her recognition in their published works.
Books like this one are important in gaining a better knowledge of such important women like Mary Anning, who even today a lot of
Jan 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, nonfiction
A fascinating book that sheds light on the inspirational story of Mary Anning, an uneducated, working-class woman born in 1799, who is considered one of the most important paleontologists that you’ve never heard of. Anning made many important discoveries on the southern coast of England in the early to mid 1800s.

I found the first half of this book to be a breeze, Mary Anning’s life story is quite the anomaly and worth learning about. Emling engages the reader with a readable beginning, as she r
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I have wanted to read this book for some time. I was not disappointed! If you've read Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures (which I have, and loved), you should really enjoy this non-fictionalized version of the story of Mary Anning's life and work. This woman from a very humble background spent her life digging through the treacherous cliffs of Lyme Regis, England, searching for fossils. Though she made many important discoveries, surpassing those of most of her male colleagues, little credit ...more
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

A good and accessible read about a woman who should be better known. There are limited sources to draw on for Mary Anning's life but the book uses more general information about the period, in addition to what is known, to build a good picture. Anning would continue to be overlooked as she was in her lifetime if this approach was not taken, given that she left virtually no writings of her own (her lower class background and lack of formal education contributed to this). If you enjoyed Tracey C
Mar 07, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eric_W by: Natalie
Natalie's reviews of Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and Curiosity by Joan Thomas peaked my interest in Mary Anning. See
In addition to telling the story of Mary Anning, this book also offers insight into the study of paleontology and geology. It also has quite a bit to say about English society in the early 1800s. Very enjoyable and readable.
Bridget Smith
This book tells the remarkable story of Mary Anning, a fossil collector, dealer, and one of the world's first paleontologists. Mary was born in 1799, in a town called Lyme Regis, located on the southwestern coast of England. Her father was a cabinet maker turned fossil hunter who found he could make more money selling fossils to tourists than he could at his chosen profession. He taught young Mary and her brother how to dig for fossils in the area's Blue Lias cliffs, which despite the danger of ...more
Becky Shattuck
This story of Anning is excellent, although I felt the author presented too much of a science versus religion context to the book.

This biography highlights not only the discoveries of Mary Anning, but also the effort she put in to clean, repair, sort, and label fossils. She began her work with fossils as a young child. As an adult, she was so knowledgeable about fossils from the Jurassic Period, that she could look at a single bone and determine what species it was from. Geologists and Paleonto
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The story that Emling tells here is fascinating - since I've finished the book, I've been wandering around saying to people who are interested in dinosaurs/the Jurassic "Did you know most of the first Jurassic bones were found by a woman? Who started when she was 12? And was the first woman to be eulogized by the Royal Society? And wrote to Lyell and lots of other people?" So far, no-one has said yes. So if you are thinking that this is interesting, yes it is, and read the book.
Mary Anning hasn
Jerald Pinson
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The diction is simple and easy to follow, as befits a good journalist. The story is mostly well-organized and goes into detail not only about Mary, but about the controversies and new discoveries that her fossils helped catalyze. The stories of the male scientists with home Mary collaborated are also told, men who – while they respected Mary – often passed her over when it came time for acknowledgement in their papers and speeches. The book does a good job at discussing the doubt fossil fi
Sarah Foxley
I picked this up on a whim in the library. I'm keen to learn more about women from history and although I couldn't find the actual book I was looking for I felt this was a good alternative.

There is a huge amount of information in this book and whilst I now feel better informed about prehistoric aquatic creaures and the lives of many of the men who studied geology & fossils in the early 19th century I don't feel I know huge amounts about Mary Anning. To be fair this is likely to b
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-non-fiction
There are some non fiction books that flow like a story. This isn't one.

I have two main grips with this book. The first one is that a lot of the information in this book only very indirectly relates to Mary Anning. A lot of time is given to discussions of paleontology, some of which is warrented to show how Mary's findings influenced the world. But Mary wasn't a part of those discussions, being a woman. Almost half the book is about various men and their differing opinions of fossils. It's not
Rachel T
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying that I've never finished a biography before. I always end up getting lost in all the names of acquaintances and dates, or I end up getting bored. But Shelley Emling had me from the start and I quickly finished the book in 2 days!

Before this, I've never heard of Mary Anning and after finishing this, I'm angered that I've never once heard of her when I went to school to actually study biology. Throughout this book, I felt disappointed, sad, and encouraged by this
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was trying to decide whether to give this work a four or five star rating. The "flaw" in the book was the author's use of obviously-expressed speculation in discussing the events and circumstances in Anning's life. However, I now believe this wasn't a flaw at all. Indeed it is a strength. Biographers have, often, an annoying habit if writing about their speculations as if they were verifiable truths, which can and does lead to confusion and reproduction of myths about their subjects. In writin ...more
Jennifer Powell
I liked reading about an interesting woman in history, but I think the story could have been told better. Mary Anning's claim to fame is that she discovered the first dinosaur fossils ever found. Her story is woven in to the Bible vs Evolution debate in the early 19th century. I think the author tried mixing nonfiction with fiction, and the book didn't do so well because of it. Emling didn't want her book to have a "historical fiction" genre attached to it so she used a lot of "Mary would have.. ...more
Subtitled "Dinosaurs, Evolution and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World," this wonderful work of non-fiction is the story of Mary Anning who, in 1811 at the age of 12, discovered a dinosaur skeleton at the cliffs of her English home town, Lyme Regis.  She became quite famous for her numerous discoveries over the years, as well as her expertise in the field.  This was quite remarkable, given her limited education and life of poverty.

I first learned of Mary Anning when reading Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures, a work of fictionChevalier's RemarkableSubtitled "Dinosaurs,
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've finished it, but I don't think much of it. The author is focusing on telling a good story in lieu of a factual one, and takes to filling in the gaps of our knowledge with supposition. I'd say about 70% of the book is preceded with the words 'she might have', 'she probably', 'she would have', or one of its ilk, and there's great deal of going on about what Mary's emotions or thought process 'must' have been like at any given event, and often those verdicts flip flop about and conjure up emot ...more
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Shelley Emling has been a journalist for 20 years. She was born in Missouri. Later she grew up in Dallas, Texas. She went to the University of Texas and started her journalism career at UPI.

Shelley is the author of two books: Your Guide to Retiring in Mexico, and most recently, The Fossil Hunter, published by Macmillan in 2009 about paleontologist Mary Anning, whom Shelley had learned
“Some five decades later, writer Terry Sullivan was inspired by Mary’s life story to compose the popular tongue twister : She sells seashells on the seashore The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure So if she sells seashells on the seashore Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.” 1 likes
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