If you find yourself on Google’s homepage today, you will likely run into a Google Doodle featuring a little-known 19th century Englishwoman named Mary Anning. Born in 1799, Anning was barred by her gender and social class from access to Britain’s community of leading scientists and palaeontologists, yet nonetheless she slowly became known in scientific circles throughout Europe and the United States. Anning’s discoveries include the first icthyosaur to come to scientific attention in England, as well as a partial skeleton of an unknown marine reptile that would later earn the title of plesiosaurus. The Google Doodle celebrates her 215th birthday and helps to give Anning the credit and attention that she so richly deserves, even centuries after her death.
There aren’t many connections between a 19th century female English palaeontologist and Cranbrook, but the timing of her 215th birthday is an ideal opportunity to mention Cranbrook Institute of Science’s current special exhibition Dinosaurs – The Lost World. Featuring more than fifty full-scale dinosaur skeletons and skeleton casts, Dinosaurs tells a story of prehistoric life that would not have been possible without the contributions of early amateur palaeontologists like Mary Anning. The exhibition closes on June 29, so be sure to visit and get a glimpse into the world that Mary and her colleagues discovered!