Tuesday, 7 June 2011
She sells seashells
Over the next twenty years Mary went on to further dramatic discoveries in the treacherous Jurassic mudslides at Black Ven, helping to transform our understanding of geological time and evolution in an age when Biblical creationism still held sway. Despite her expertise, as a woman of little education from an impoverished background she had no hope of being accepted into the scientific elite, although they were happy enough to visit her at Lyme and let her guide them on local expeditions. Most of her life she quite literally scratched a living, selling her own fossil finds from a local shop and was immortalised in the famous, if slightly disparaging, tongue-twister She sells seashells on the sea shore. The shells she sells are seashells, I'm sure.
As a child I always imagined myself making a spectacular find of my own whenever we went anywhere with rocks and cliffs. My parents lived briefly in Lyme Regis and we spent a happy day in Mary's footsteps. Somewhere I still have the fragment of ammonite I found that day.