According to post writer Mark Wilson, Mary Anning (1799–1847) — “one of the most famous paleontologists of the 19th Century” — is credited with having discovered the first plesiosaur (Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus). Wilson writes, “Anning was a spectacularly successful fossil collector along the ‘Jurassic Coast’ of southern England.” One of Anning’s main work sites, the Golden Cap outcrop is shown in the painting’s background.
I really like this painting, for two reasons especially: Like any proper geologist, Anning is carrying a rock hammer — but note how she is pointing down toward her dog — an even more handy field companion, perhaps?
From childhood, Mary Anning made her living collecting and selling shells and fossils. Fun fact pointed out by Wilson (and according to Wikipedia): Anning is the basis for one of my favorite tongue-twisters:
She sells seashells on the seashore / The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure / So if she sells seashells on the seashore / Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
Addendum: Right away, I received a comment (via Facebook) from my esteemed colleague, Ted Nield, at the Geological Society (London), who walks by the original portrait each day at the office: “She’s not pointing at the dog, her field companion, she’s pointing to the ammonite in the rock just next to the dog, which is not very clear in this reproduction. Have a look at the truly beautiful version here: http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/gsl/geoscientist/features/page4691.html