Anderson, John (DNB01)

ANDERSON, JOHN (1833–1900), naturalist, second son of Thomas Anderson, secretary of the National Bank of Scotland, was born at Edinburgh on 4 Oct. 1833. After passing his school days at the George Square Academy and the Hill Street Institution, Edinburgh, he received a junior appointment in the Bank of Scotland, which was soon abandoned for the medical course in the university of Edinburgh. Anderson was a pupil of John Goodsir [q.v.], from whom he received his anatomical training; he graduated M.D. in 1862, and received the gold medal of the university of Edinburgh for zoology. At this period he was associated with others in the foundation of the Royal Physical Society, which rose from the ashes of the Wernerian Society in the same city. Anderson was one of the early presidents of this society. Soon after graduating he was appointed to the chair of natural history in the Free Church College at Edinburgh, previously held by Dr. John Fleming (1785–1857) [q.v.] This office he held for about two years. In 1864 he proceeded to India, and the newly established Indian museum at Calcutta was in 1865 placed under his charge. The museum at Calcutta was built by the government for the housing of the collections amassed by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, who were unable to continue to store upon their own premises the rapidly growing material. The rich collections, both zoological and ethnological, were therefore handed over to the government of India. Anderson was the first superintendent of that collection under the new regime, but his office was at first entitled that of curator. The duties of the head of this museum were varied by three scientific expeditions, to which Anderson was attached as naturalist. The first of these was undertaken under the command of Colonel (Sir) Edward Bosc Sladen [q. v.] in 1867. The members of the expedition proceeded to Upper Burmah, and succeeded in getting as far as Momein in Yunnan. A second expedition in 1875–6 in the same direction, under the command of Colonel Horace Browne, was not so successful, owing to the treachery of the Chinese; Augustus Raymond Margary [q. v.], who travelled in front of the rest of the members of the expedition, was murdered, and in consequence the expedition, which had not proceeded far beyond the Burmese frontier, was compelled to return. The information amassed during these two journeys was very considerable, and formed the basis of two large quarto volumes written by Anderson, and published in 1878–9. A third expedition was made by Anderson to the Mergui archipelago in 1881–2, and was productive of much new information in marine zoology, as well as of facts concerning the Selungs, a tribe inhabiting some of the islands of the archipelago. His account of the results of this expedition was published in vols, xxi. and xxii. of the Linnean Society’s ‘Journal’ (1889); as a further result of this mission Anderson published in 1890 ‘English Intercourse with Siam in the Seventeenth Century’ (Trübner’s Oriental Series). The large amount of scientific work published by Anderson led to his election in 1879 as a fellow of the Royal Society. He was created an honorary LL.D. of Edinburgh in 1885, and he was also a fellow of the Linnean Society and of the Society of Antiquaries. During the last years of his tenure of the office of superintendent of the Calcutta museum, he was also professor of comparative anatomy at the medical school of Calcutta. In 1886 he resigned his posts at Calcutta, and returned to London, where he devoted much of his attention to the Zoological Society of London, attending the scientific meetings and serving on the council and as vice-president. Anderson’s last important undertaking was a volume upon the reptiles of Egypt, which was intended to be followed by a complete account of the zoology of that part of Africa. He died at Matlock on 15 Aug. 1900. Anderson married Grace, daughter of Patrick Hunter Thoms.

Anderson’s scientific work was partly zoological and partly ethnological. His early training as an anatomist led him to treat zoology from the anatomical standpoint, and to dwell upon internal structure as well as external form in describing new forms of life. The vertebrata claimed his attention almost exclusively; and among the vertebrata his principal additions to knowledge concern the mammalia. The Yunnan expeditions allowed him to investigate the structure of that remarkable, nearly blind, fluviatile dolphin of the muddy rivers of India, the platanista; his account is the principal source of information respecting this long-snouted whale. A small, partly freshwater and partly marine, dolphin named, on account of its likeness to the savage killer (orca), orcella, was described by Anderson for the first time in the same work, which contains abundant observations upon many other creatures. A memoir in the ‘Transactions of the Zoological Society’ (1872, p. 683) upon the hedgehog-like animal hylomys is another of his more important contributions to zoology. A variety of notes upon apes, reptiles, and birds, largely contributed to the Zoological Society of London, offer a considerable mass of new facts of importance; they not only add to our knowledge of structure, but also throw new light on problems of the geographical distribution of animals. The ethnological work of Anderson is mainly his account of the Selungs already referred to.

His principal works other than contributions to the ‘Transactions’ and ‘Proceedings’ of various learned societies are: 1. ‘Mandalay to Momein,’ 1876. 2. ‘Anatomical and Zoological Researches, comprising an Account of the Zoological Results of the two Expeditions to Western Yunnan in 1868 and 1875, and a Monograph of the two Cetacean Genera, Platanista and Orcella,’ 1878–9. 3. ‘Catalogue of Mammalia in the Indian Museum, 1881, pt, i. 4. ‘Catalogue of Archaeological Collections in the Indian Museum,’ 1883, pts. i. and ii. 5. ‘Contributions to the Fauna of Mergui and its Archipelago,’ 1889. (This work is a reprint from the ‘Journal of the Linnean Society,’ and contains the contributions of several specialists.) 6. ‘English Intercourse with Siam,’ 1889. 7. ‘A Contribution to the Herpetology of Arabia,’ 1898.

[Anderson’s Works; Royal Society’s Cat. of Scientific Papers; Nature, 27 Sept. 1900; Times, 17 Aug. 1900; Men of the Time, ed. 1895.]

F. E. B.

ANDERSON, Sir WILLIAM (1835–1898), director-general of ordnance, born in St. Petersburg on 5 Jan. 1835, was the fourth son of John Anderson, a member of the firm of Matthews, Anderson, & Co., bankers and merchants of St. Petersburg, by his wife