A NEW biography of a famous fossil hunter has been produced - with the help of AI technology.

The book revisits the story of revered palaeontologist Mary Anning almost exactly 225 years after she was born using new images created by artificial intelligence software.

Following a 20-year career as a business leader and consultant in the world of technology, fossil collector Wolfgang Grulke - originally from Germany and now living in Dorset - noticed a gap in the story of Mary Anning, in that there is only one image of her that exists, which was painted shortly before her death, aged 47.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Left: Mary Anning as re-imagined by author Wolfgang Grulke and Dorset school children, using AI. He said: “I was using the AI software mid-journey last year, which puts images to words, and it dawned on me that there is only one image of Mary Anning and children that learn about her see her almost as a grandmother, but in fact she made most of her discoveries as a teen and in her early twenties."

Mr Grulke wrote the biography about Anning's younger years as she was making many of her famous fossil discoveries, with help from the Lyme Regis Museum and local schools.

It is released ahead of the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival this weekend.

To teach the software, Mr Grulke said the painting of Anning was used as part of the prompt, and that schoolchildren decided her final image during the creative process.

He said: “With just one image of Anning there is no right answer to how she looked as nobody knows, but the drawings bring her story to life, and have made it more relatable to younger audiences.

“We showed hundreds of mock up photos to children in schools as we wanted to present her story in a different way to get them involved with her history."

Mr Grulke added: “We’re really proud of the reception from the children. When we showed them the AI image after the painting, they all stood up and cheered. A lot of teachers have also been surprised of the quality."

Mr Grulke's passion has seen him build up a collection of fossils from the past 50 years, which he keeps at a museum he started in Oborne, north Dorset inspired by Anning's collection. He has previously written non-fiction books but this is his first book aimed at younger audiences. 

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Explaining why he embarked on the challenge, Mr Grulke said: “On my very first visit to Lyme Regis almost 50 years ago I learnt about Mary Anning, and as a fossil collector, she had been a real inspiration.

“Here we have this young girl discovering amazing things without an education. She was probably overwhelmed by her discoveries and we have taken liberties with the book to ask questions about what she was thinking."

As well as reimagining the story of Mary Anning in her younger years, the book brings nineteenth century Lyme Regis to life with AI images.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Lyme Regis Museum's involvement with the project has also seen a life-size cardboard cut out of the reimagined AI image installed in the Mary Anning wing. 

The book, 'She Sold Seashells… and Sea Dragons; the curious Mary Anning re-imagined' is available to purchase from the museum for £12. Visit www.lymeregismuseum.co.uk/shop/