MSP Film Society Minneapolis, MN


Alex Hastings

Philip W. Fitzpatrick Chair of Paleontology, Science Museum of Minnesota

Ammonite— Mary Anning: Paleontology's unsung hero

In the early 1800s, paleontologist and fossil collector Mary Anning made a living finding and selling fossils to collectors and institutions at a time when women were largely excluded from the scientific community. She was responsible for some of the most important discoveries of her era and also inspired generations of scientists (not to mention a famous tongue twister, can you guess it?). Paleontologist Alex Hastings will dig into Anning’s legacy, her impact on the field of paleontology, and his work at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

MSP Film Society Minneapolis, MN

Film Synopsis

Acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning works alone selling common fossils to tourists to support her ailing mother, but a chance job offer changes her life when a visitor hires her to care for his wife.

In the 1840s, acclaimed self-taught palaeontologist Mary Anning works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis. The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother. When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison, arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte, who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realization that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably. [Sloan Science & Film]

Banner image courtesy of Neon

About the Speaker

Dr. Alex Hastings is a paleontologist and the Science Museum of Minnesota's paleontology collection curator. Much of his career has focused on sensational ancient reptiles, including horse-hunting crocodiles and colossal snakes. He now studies all areas of paleontology from giant dinosaurs to tiny oysters and is actively engaged in public outreach to share his enthusiasm for the ancient world.