The 19th-century fossil hunter, Mary Anning is being commemorated in a series of new collectable coins from the Royal Mint and Natural History Museum.
Mary Anning was a palaeontologist who became known for the fossil she found in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis. Anning was still aged only around 12 or 13 when she found the first articulated skeleton of an ichthyosaur, a type of marine reptile that once roamed Jurassic seas. In 1823, she found another sea lizard, unearthing the first complete plesiosaur skeleton, which initially baffled scientists because of its abnormally long neck. In 1828, she discovered the first pterosaur skeleton in England.
Although often overlooked by the scientific establishment of the time for the heinous crime of being a woman, she still became well known in geological circles, and was consulted on issues of collecting fossils, and made several critical discoveries.
In 2010 the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.
The first coin in this three-part collection features Temnodontosaurus, a huge marine predator and one of the largest types of ichthyosaur that inhabited our ancient oceans. Coins featuring both Plesiosaurus and Dimorphodon will launch later in the year completing this collection commemorating the fossils unearthed by Mary Anning along what is now known as the Jurassic Coast.
Based on current understanding and with the guidance of Sandra Chapman from the Earth Sciences Department of the Natural History Museum, the coin designs depict a scientifically accurate reconstruction of each species and the environment in which it lived.
The coins are here.
Although the coins are collectables and unlikely to be used in shops, they are still officially legal tender, so the Royal Mint requires a command from The Queen before they can produce them. This was issued as an official proclamation at Windsor Castle last November.
At long last, a royal seal of approval for the fossil hunter.