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Later years and friendships

Platyodon teeth
Detail of the jaw of Temnodontosaurus platyodon, photograph by Alistair Fyfe, 2009. This specimen was found by Mary Anning probably sometime in 1827.  Henry De la Beche is likely to have purchased it from her to give to the Geological Society for its long-gone Museum. The Museum was broken up in 1911, but the specimen was kept due to its provenance.  It is now on display in the Society's Entrance Hall. Click to enlarge.

The popular narrative surrounding the life of Mary Anning is that the male scientists of the age took her discoveries, exploited them for their own use with little reference to her.  Whilst this is true in some instances, as we've seen amongst her circle of geological friends she was well regarded, frequently relying on her advice and opinion for their scientific works.  Outside of this, acquiring an Anning specimen gave a find kudos. 

Cowper letter p1
Cowper letter p2
Copy of a letter from William Cowper, 10 December 1835.  Archive ref: LDGSL/838/C/18. Click to enlarge.

They were also supportive in other respects, such as when they discovered that Anning lost her life savings of £200 to a conman.  Keen to use their influence, Fellows such as Buckland and Murchison at first considered the possibility of applying to the British Association for a pension for her.  In the end a collection was arranged at the BA's annual meeting which generated £200 from the scientific community.  This was not the end as they had set their sights much higher, determined to gain national recognition of her contributions to geology.  This copy of a letter in the Murchison collection is from William Cowper (1811-1888), the nephew and private secretary of the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.  It states that the Prime Minister would willingly place Anning’s name on the pension list but there is unfortunately no vacancy at present.  Instead he will award her £300 from the Bounty Fund.  The funds raised resulted in a modest annual annuity for Anning of £25 per year.

The story of Mary Anning cannot be complete without the mention of another important friend and supporter.  Society Fellow and erstwhile Lyme resident Sir Henry De la Beche.  

Click on the images to find out more:

Duria thumb
  Duria Antiquior, 1830 
Window thumb
  Final years and memorials

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