The UK will be celebrating one of the people who made paleontology go from a hobby to a science, Marry Anning, on a series of 50p coins. These will feature Jurassic dinosaurs that she discovered, and the first one released features the temnodontosaurus, which a 12-year-old Anning discovered with her brother in 1810.
We were born into everything the modern world has to offer, so we can be forgiven if we take them for granted. But there was a time, not even that long ago, when this world had to be built piece by piece. A great part of that effort involved understanding the planet we live on and its rules, so that we may bend them to our benefit.
Mary Anning was an integral part of that. She was born into a poor family on the southern shore of England and her father would often look for fossils on the shore. These could be sold to wealthy collectors for just enough money to scrape by. After his passing, Mary Anning took up the trade. She would become the first person to discover the fossilized remains of an ichthyosaur and later a plesiosaur, both sea-dwelling dinosaurs. In many ways, she is regarded as the mother of modern paleontology.
Put her on a coin!
“The Mary Anning collection celebrates a pivotal figure in the understanding of palaeontology, important contributions to science that were rarely acknowledged in Mary’s lifetime,” says Clare Matterson, the executive director of engagement at the Natural History Museum, which is involved in the project. “It is fantastic to see Mary celebrated in such a special way in 2021.”
The coins will feature some of the most terrifying Jurassic sea creatures as a celebration of Mary Anning’s work. They’re the latest in a string of gestures meant to commemorate her contributions to science. For example, the Natural History Museum in London named a suite of rooms after her in 2018, her story was told in the movie Ammonite, and she was almost put on the UK’s upcoming new £50 note (although she eventually lost to Alan Turing).
This is the second set of coins in the Tales of the Earth series, a collaboration between the Natural History Museum and the Royal Mint. The first series revolved around more traditional dinosaurs. This one will feature the Jurassic sea-faring animals discovered by Anning. One already-released coin features the temnodontosaurus, one of the largest species of ichthyosaur. It was the species that Mary discovered with her brother in 1810, and could grow up to 10 meters long. It also had the distinction of sporting the largest eye we’ve ever found, each around the size of a soccer ball.
Other coins in the series will feature the plesiosaurus and the dimorphodon, a species of flying dino.
The coins are priced from £10 to £1,100 and have been designed by Robert Nicholls, a natural history artist, with guidance from Sandra Chapman, one of the experts at the museum. Each carries “a scientifically accurate reconstruction of the creatures and the environment that they existed in”, according to the Royal Mint.