Robert G. W. Anderson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert G. W. Anderson
Robert G. W. Anderson (2006)
Born (1944-05-02) 2 May 1944 (age 79)
EducationWoodhouse Grammar School, Finchley, London
Alma materSt John's College, Oxford
Scientific career
FieldsChemistry, History
InstitutionsRoyal Scottish Museum; Science Museum, London; National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh; British Museum, London ; Science History Institute, Philadelphia

Robert Geoffrey William Anderson, FSA, FRSE, FRSC (born 2 May 1944) is a British museum curator and historian of chemistry. He has wide-ranging interests in the history of chemistry, including the history of scientific instrumentation, the work of Joseph Black and Joseph Priestley, the history of museums, and the involvement of the working class in material culture.[1][2] He has been Director of the Science Museum, London, the National Museums of Scotland, the British Museum, London,[3] and president and CEO of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now the Science History Institute) in Philadelphia.[4]


Anderson was born 2 May 1944 to Herbert Patrick Anderson and Kathleen Diana Burns.[5][6] Anderson was educated at Woodhouse Grammar School, a former state grammar school in Finchley in North London, followed by St John's College at the University of Oxford. He completed his B.A. in chemistry in 1966, and his B.Sc., and his Doctor of Philosophy (D. Phil.) in 1970. He studied the electrical conduction in free radical solutions and inelastic scattering of neutrons from adsorbed molecules.[7][8]

Life and career[edit]

Anderson joined the Royal Scottish Museum as an Assistant Keeper in 1970. In 1975, he moved to the chemistry department of the Science Museum, London. He became an Assistant Keeper of Chemistry. One of his challenges in 1976 was to incorporate materials from the history of medicine collection of the Wellcome Museum of the History of Medicine, which were acquired as a permanent loan.[9] He organized a conference and edited "an excellent and detailed account"[10] to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh, The Early Years of the Edinburgh Medical School.[11] This was followed bty a catalogue in 1978: The Playfair Collection and the Teaching of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh 1713-1858.[12] Anderson was also in charge of the renovation and expansion of the chemistry and industrial chemistry galleries in 1977.[13] He became keeper of chemistry, succeeded Frank Greenaway as director from 1980 to 1984.[13]

Anderson returned to the Royal Scottish Museum as director from 1984 to 1985. When the Royal Scottish Museum amalgamated with National Museum of Antiquities in 1985, he became the director of the new National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, a position he retained until 1992.[14]

Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, British Museum

In 1992 Anderson joined the British Museum in London, where he was director from 1992 to 2002.[15] Anderson oversaw the £100 million millennium project redevelopment of the British Museum's Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, designed by Norman Foster and opened by the Queen on 6 December 2000.[16][17] Anderson was succeeded as director of the British Museum in 2002 by Neil MacGregor.[18]

Anderson has been president of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (1982–1997), and of the British Society for the History of Science (1988–1990).[7] In 2004, Anderson became president of the Association of Independent Libraries.[2]

Anderson has held visiting academic posts at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University and at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge (2002–2003).[19] He is an Emeritus Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge.[1]

As of 28 July 2016, Anderson became interim president and CEO of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now the Science History Institute),[20] a history of science organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. He succeeded German historian of science Carsten Reinhardt. On 11 January 2017, Anderson was named the institution's ongoing president and CEO.[4] He was succeeded by David Allen Cole as of 20 May 2020.[21][22]

Anderson has published at least 14 monographs or catalogues and at least 50 papers.[7] His publications include works on the history of scientific instrumentation,[23] the history of museums,[24] and the work of Joseph Black[25] and Joseph Priestley.[26]

Awards and honors[edit]

Robert Anderson is a member of the International Academy of the History of Science, and a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).[7] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1990),[27] the Society of Antiquaries of London (1986)[28] and of the Royal Society of Chemistry.[7] In 1990 he was elected Honorary Fellow[29] of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Robert Anderson is a recipient of the Dexter Award (1986)[30] and of the Paul Bunge Prize, which he was awarded in 2016 for a lifetime of "outstanding achievement in writing about and promoting the understanding of historic scientific instruments".[31][32]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dr Robert G W Anderson". Clare Hall, Cambridge. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b Bowman, J. H. (2006). British librarianship and information work : 1991-2000. Hampshire: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-4779-9. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  3. ^ John W. Wotiz, "A Conversation with Robert G. Anderson: Eminent Chemist and Director of the British Museum", Journal of Chemical Education, 72(8), p. 708, August 1995. ACS Publications. doi:10.1021/ed072p708.
  4. ^ a b Everts, Sarah (12 January 2017). "Chemical Heritage Foundation names Robert G. W. Anderson as president and CEO The former director of London's British Museum will take permanent helm of the chemical history organization". Chemical & Engineering News. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  5. ^ "ANDERSON, Robert Geoffrey William", Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 26 Sept 2013
  6. ^ Publications, Europa (2013). "Anderson, Robert Geoffrey William". The international who's who 2014. London: Europa Publications. p. 47. ISBN 978-1857436846. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Robert G. W. Anderson (1944–)" (PDF). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Chemical Sciences. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  8. ^ Anderson, Robert. "Circa 1951: Presenting Science to the British Public". Oregon State University. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  9. ^ Gardner, A; Kleinitz, Cornelia (2000). "Interview with Dr. Robert Anderson, Director of the British Museum. Conducted 15/6/00". Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. 11: 7. doi:10.5334/pia.150.
  10. ^ Selwyn, Sydney (1977). "The Early Years of the Edinburgh Medical School". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 70 (6): 452. doi:10.1177/003591577707000649. PMC 1543201.
  11. ^ Anderson, R.G.W.; Simpson, A.D.C., eds. (1976). The Early years of the Edinburgh Medical School : a symposium jointly organised by the Royal Scottish Museum and the Scottish Society of the History of Medicine in connection with the special exhibition Edinburgh and Medicine and the 250th anniversary of the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh, held in the Royal Scottish Museum, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, on 26th June 1976. Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Museum. ISBN 978-0900733109.
  12. ^ Anderson, R.G.W. (1978). The Playfair collection and the teaching of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh 1713-1858. Edinburgh: The Royal Scottish Museum. ISBN 9780900733161.
  13. ^ a b Morris, Peter (2006). "The Image of Chemistry Presented by the Science Museum, London in the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective". Hyle: International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry. 12 (2): 215–239. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  14. ^ "History of National Museums Scotland". National Museums Scotland. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  15. ^ Bushby, Helen (27 June 2002). "British Museum 'needs £10m boost'". BBC. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  16. ^ "The British Museum Review" (PDF). The British Museum. 2001. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  17. ^ Anderson, Robert (2000). The great court at the British Museum (Repr. ed.). London: British Museum Press. ISBN 978-0714127415.
  18. ^ "Principal Librarians and Directors of the British Museum". British Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  19. ^ CRASSH fellowship, University of Cambridge, 2002–2003.
  20. ^ Salisbury, Stephan (3 January 2018). "Chemical Heritage Foundation is morphing into the Science History Institute". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  21. ^ "David Cole President and CEO at Science History Institute". People on the Move. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  22. ^ "David Allen Cole Named President and CEO of the Science History Institute". Science History Institute. 18 May 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  23. ^ Anderson, R. G. W.; Bennett, J. A.; Ryan, W. F., eds. (1993). Making instruments count : essays on historical scientific instruments presented to Gerard L'Estrange Turner. Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum. ISBN 978-0860783947.
  24. ^ Anderson, R. G. W., ed. (2003). Enlightening the British : knowledge, discovery and the museum in the eighteenth century. London: British Museum Press. ISBN 978-0714150109.
  25. ^ Anderson, Robert G. W.; Jones, Jean, eds. (2012). The correspondence of Joseph Black. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate Pub. ISBN 9780754601319.
  26. ^ Anderson, R.G.W.; Lawrence, Christopher, eds. (1986). Science, medicine and dissent. London: Wellcome Trust. ISBN 978-0901805287.
  27. ^ "RSE Fellows as at 05/05/2016" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 March 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  28. ^ "See who else is on board". Society of Antiquaries of London. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  29. ^ "Honorary Fellows". Retrieved 25 September 2023.
  30. ^ Ihde, Aaron J. (1989). "THE HISTORY OF THE DEXTER AWARD" (PDF). Bull. Hist. Chem. 4: 23–26. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  31. ^ "Robert G. W. Anderson to Receive the Paul Bunge Prize". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  32. ^ Paul-Bunge-Preis geht an Robert Anderson – Über 43 Jahre Einsatz für die Instrumentengeschichte. Pressemitteilung vom 12. April 2016 beim Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (

External links[edit]