Anderson, Thomas (1819-1874) (DNB00)

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ANDERSON, THOMAS, M.D. LL.D. (1819–1874), chemist, was the son of a physician at Leith, from whom he acquired scientific tastes. After passing through the High School of Leith and the Edinburgh Academy, he became a medical student in the university of Edinburgh. Here he obtained (1839–40) the biennial ‘Hope Prize,’ and he graduated M.D. in 1841, choosing for his thesis ‘The Nature of the Chemical Changes which take place in Secretion, Nutrition, and the other Functions of Living Beings.’ In 1842 he studied under Berzelius in Stockholm; in 1843 in the Giessen laboratory under Liebig; and he afterwards visited Bonn, Berlin, and Vienna, returning to Edinburgh an accomplished chemist. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1845; a year later an extra-academical university teacher of chemistry, and in 1848 chemist to the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, an appointment which he held to within a short time of his death.

In 1852 he succeeded Dr. Thomas Thomson as regius professor of chemistry in the university of Glasgow. In 1859 he was elected President of the Glasgow Philosophical Society; and in 1867 president of the Chemical Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Royal Society of Edinburgh awarded him the Keith medal in 1855, and the Royal Society of London one of the royal medals in 1872. His last years were passed in much mental and bodily suffering, and he died on 2 Nov. 1874. Anderson's earliest researches were on a new mineral species, and on the atomic weight of nitrogen. He conducted an elaborate inquiry into ‘The Products of the Destructive Distillation of Animal Substances,’ which resulted in the discovery of a new pyridine series, and of certain fatty amines. Then he examined the action of sulphur upon fixed oils, and obtained a new definite organic sulphide. His paper ‘On the Crystalline Constituents of Opium’ was very exhaustive. In 1861 he published a work on ‘Anthracene and its Derivatives,’ and somewhat later interesting theoretical memoirs on the Platino-pyridine Bases, and on the Polymerisation of Pyridine, and Picoline. His agricultural experiments, which extended over nearly a quarter of a century, are almost all published in the ‘Journal of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.’ He examined the composition of wheat, beans, and turnips at different periods of their growth, and made a number of analyses of soils, manures, plant ashes, and oil cakes. His ‘Elements of Agricultural Chemistry’ was published in 1860, and although not very original in treatment, it gave a clear summary of the science at that date. Anderson was an organic and agricultural chemist, and but rarely turned his attention to inorganic bodies.

[Journal of the Chemical Society of London (1875), pp. 1309–13.]

G. F. R.