- Earth Sciences - Aug 29 Sentinel-1 provides new insight into Italy’s earthquake
- Earth Sciences - Aug 29 Why does atmospheric chemistry research matter?
- Astronomy - Aug 25 Positioning exact to the millimeter
- Earth Sciences - Aug 19 2014 Napa earthquake continued to creep, weeks after main shock
- Earth Sciences - Aug 18 Paleontologists with the Burke Museum, UW discover major T. rex fossil
- Earth Sciences - Aug 17 UT Study Cracks Coldest Case: How Lucy Died
- Earth Sciences - Aug 16 Schools in the South- East of England dominate access to Oxbridge
- Earth Sciences - Aug 15 UC San Diego Hosts Free Tours of America’s Newest Scientific Research Ship R/V Sally Ride
- Life Sciences - Aug 11 Lessons for conservation
- Earth Sciences - Aug 11 Spotlight on Schiaparelli’s landing site
- Astronomy - Aug 10 Interaction of Earth with supernova remnants lasting for one million years
- Environment - Aug 10 With droughts and downpours, climate change feeds Chesapeake Bay algal blooms
- Mechanical Engineering - Aug 9 Motorways reveal evidence of massive tropical storms 200 million years ago
- Earth Sciences - Aug 9 Mark Pagani elected fellow of American Geophysical Union
- Earth Sciences - Aug 8 Hot new? material found to exist in nature
- Environment - Aug 5 From the desert to the North Pole
‘Picture This #13′ Mary Anning’s Ichthyosaur, Sedgwick Museum
Mary Anning’s fossil discoveries revealed an ’ancient Dorset’, and were influential contributions to the blossoming science of palaeontology during the early 19th century.
What is it?
This is the fossil skeleton of an ichthyosaur, a type of extinct marine reptile. It lived during the early Jurassic Period, and is around 200 million years old. The fossil was found in the cliffs at Lyme Regis in Dorset in 1835 by celebrated fossil collector Mary Anning.
What’s the story?
The ichthyosaur fossil was purchased from Mary Anning by Cambridge geologist and Woodwardian Professor Adam Sedgwick. Sedgwick’s desire to expand the University’s geological collections meant he was well connected with many of the fossil collectors of the time. A series of letters between Anning and Sedgwick during the summer of 1835 has enabled us to trace the history of this specimen.
A letter from Anning to Sedgwick, delivered by the hand of a Lyme clergyman who happened to be visiting Cambridge, dated 29 June 1835, first roused Sedgwick’s interest in the fossil. In the letter Anning describes it as ’a perfect Ichthyosaurus about four feet and a half long’. Along with this specimen she mentions two other fossil ichthyosaurs for sale, as well as some fossil crinoids (sea-lilies). Noticeably, and perhaps shrewdly, Anning did not mention the price of any of the specimens in this letter.
Sedgwick replied on 24 July, to which Anning wrote back detailing the prices of some of the fossils, specifying that the price of the Ichthyosaur specimen was £50.
Although there is no known letter confirming Sedgwick’s interest in the specimen at the stipulated price, a letter from Anning to Sedgwick dated 9 September confirms that she ’sent off the Ichths [sic] on Tuesday 2nd of September on board the Unity, Pearce Mastr’. She also sent a letter, dated 23 September, acknowledging receipt of an order for £50.
In 1835 the University of Cambridge Senate appointed a syndicate to solicit subscriptions for a new library with museums and lecture rooms beneath it. Sedgwick evidently had grand ambitions for a geological museum from the outset. He contributed 100 guineas of his own money to the subscription and purchased expensive specimens such as this ichthyosaur and the skeleton of a giant Irish deer.
Sedgwick’s geological museum opened in the Cockerell Building (now the Squire Law Library) in about 1842 where the ichthyosaur would have been on display until it was moved to the newly built Sedgwick Museum in about 1904.
The fossil was redisplayed in the Museum’s ’Jurassic Seas’ exhibition in 1998. It shares its current display case with another ichthyosaur, discovered by Thomas Hawkins, also an important 19th century fossil collector.
Can we see it?
This ichthyosaur is one of several spectacular marine reptile fossils that the Sedgwick Museum has on permanent display in its galleries. The Museum is open 10-1 and 2-5 weekdays and 10-4 on Saturdays.
Want to know more?
To find out more about the Sedgwick Museum and its collections, visit us or look up the website at www.sedgwickmuseum.org/ , blog sedgwickmuseum.org.uk/blog/ , and find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sedgwickmuseum
Mary Anning’s life and work is the subject of the book ’Jurassic Mary: Mary Anning and the primeval sea monsters’ by Patricia Pierce, and also forms the basis for the novel ’Remarkable Creatures’ by Tracy Chevalier.
Last job offers
- Earth Sciences - 10.8
- Literature/Linguistics - 3.6
Professeur-e en études littéraires et émotions
- Literature/Linguistics - 29.8
Associate professor (subsidiary assistant professor) in Library Science and Knowledge Communication
- Earth Sciences - 23.8
Assistant Professor in Paleomagnetism (0.8-1.0 FTE, tenure track)
- Earth Sciences - 29.8
Professorship in Hydrogeology
- Earth Sciences - 29.8
Universitätsprofessur für Hydrogeologie
- Earth Sciences - 26.8
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
- Literature/Linguistics - 25.8
Senior Research Associate: Development of Theory of Mind, modals, and mental-state verbs
- Literature/Linguistics - 27.8
Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics
- Life Sciences - 19.8
Visiting Senior Research Specialist - Biotechnology Center, DNA (A1600401)