William Conybeare, an English geologist, was born June 7, 1787. When Mary Anning discovered the first specimens of Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus at Lyme Regis in Dorset in the 1810s, it was Conybeare and his friend Henry De la Beche who described and published her specimens. The first image above shows a Plesiosaurus that Anning found in 1823 and which Conybeare published in 1824 in the Transactions of the Geological Society of London. The print is a lithograph, an early demonstration of how well lithography captures the texture of fossil bones. In the same article, Conybeare provided a reconstruction of both Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus (second image). By a fortunate coincidence, there is a colored map in this volume of the Transactions, by a different author and for a different purpose, but which shows the region around Lyme Regis where the Plesiosaurus remains were found (third image).
Conybeare was also interested in stratigraphy; we included a geological map of his, depicting the basaltic regions of Ireland and western Scotland, in our 2004 exhibition, Vulcan’s Forge and Fingal’s Cave.
There seem to be two surviving portraits of Conybeare; we include above the one less frequently reproduced (fourth image).
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.