I read a book a little while ago by the title of The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World by Shelley Emling. It tells the story of Mary Anning, a dirt-poor girl who discovered and sold dinosaur fossils.
Her life was extremely difficult, both as a woman and as someone who was born into the very poorest sector of British society. Although her fossils solidified the scientific theory of evolution, she was often ignored by the rich, male scholars who benefited from her hard and dangerous work. Like so many other women, her name was left out when giving credit for her discoveries – instead, the men who bought her fossils and then donated them to museums got the credit. Shelley Emling goes a long way in reclaiming Mary Anning’s history, as well as several other lady fossil hunters’ contributions.
Anning also read scientific books and dissected modern sea animals in order to understand what kind of animals she unearthed. She interacted with many people, both men and women, who were fortunate enough to be formally educated, and developed hypotheses about how her dinosaurs came to look the way they did and how they were related to each other. I found her story to be amazing and inspirational, and I don’t say that about everyone.
I highly recommend this book, for people interested in science, dinosaurs, evolution, women’s studies, and the history of early natural history museums in Britain.
What I envision for this portrait is a traditional painting, with the cliffs of Lyme Regis (Anning’s home and where she found the fossils) in the background. I may or may not include her beloved dog, depending on the size and placement of other elements.