‘And then two come along at once.’ The eagerness to discover forgotten females of merit was bound to uncover Mary Anning. The early nineteenth-century Dorset fossil hunter was ignored by the first geologists, who profited from her astonishing finds in the cliffs of Lyme Regis. The large plesiosaur and ichthyosaur that you can see proudly displayed in the Natural History Museum were unearthed by Anning's careful hands and reassembled to be sold in London without mention of her name. Now, the museum has a new Mary Anning Room, and it is quite fitting that two books about her appear almost simultaneously – one a thorough biography, the other a well-researched novel.
Both Shelley Emling's The Fossil Hunter and Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures emphasise the reason why Anning was so long ignored. First, she was female at a time when women could not be members of the clubby Geological Society of London – the band of gentlemen who revelled in