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John Anderson (1726-1796)

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Professor John Anderson (1726–1796), natural philosopher, of Glasgow University

1726 born on 26 September in the parish of Rosneath, Dunbartonshire.

Attended grammar school in Stirling; then went to the University of Glasgow, where he graduated MA in 1745.

1745 During the rising he served as an officer in a volunteer corps of Hanoverians that defended Stirling against the Jacobites

1750 He went to the Netherlands, and then London, where he became tutor to Francis Stuart and then as a travelling tutor.

1754 Appointed professor of oriental languages at Glasgow .

1757 succeeded Dr. Dick as professor of Natural Philosophy.

John Anderson was an intimate friend of James Watt who spent many evenings at his residence within the College, and had the free use of his private library.

Involved in many litigations in the university which soured his relations with his colleagues.

Professor Anderson was the first to open classes for the instruction of working men in the principles of Natural Philosophy.

1789 his design of cannon was rejected by the Master General of Ordnance, the Duke of Richmond

1791 As a gesture of support for the French Revolution, he presented his cannon to the French nation.

1796 His will specified that his estate was to be used to found a new university in Glasgow but the full scheme was impractical. His executors established Anderson's Institution, which was opened long before the age of Mechanics Institutes, and survives in the Strathclyde University.

A Founder of Technical Education[1]

Though the exact day is apparently not known, this year marks the bicentenary of the birth of Professor John Anderson, of Glasgow University, who founded the first of our technical colleges. Born in Roseneath, Dumbartonshire, in 1726, Anderson was the son of a minister, but losing his father at an early age, he was brought up by an aunt at Stirling and became an undergraduate at Glasgow. Having takon his degree of M.A. in 1755, the year Watt came up to London, Anderson was made Professor of Oriental Languages in the University, and a year or two later Professor of Natural Philosophy, Joseph Black then being Professor of Chemistry. A man of wide views and of independent mind, Andereon went far beyond the ordinary routine of a professor and established classes for artisans engaged in the local works, in which he illustrated the scientific principles underlying practical work, a novel procedure which has borne remarkable fruits. His interest in what we call to-day technical education was further shown in his will, by which he left his estate to found the Anderson University. His will stated that "except what is contained in the painted chest with three locks, as above narrated, I give, grant, dispose and convey the whole or my property of every sort to the public for the good of mankind and the improvement of science in an institution to be denominated Anderson's University." The whole range of human science and literature was to be taught to all classes and to both sexes, and there were to be four faculties Arts, Law, Medicine, and Divinity . But, alas! Anderson's ideas were grander than his estate, for the total value of his property amounted to about £1000! Fortunately, the seed fell on good ground, a most successful start was made, and under the successive guidance of Thomas Garnett, George Birkbeck and Dr. Ure, Anderson's institution grew in usefulness. In its early days the lectures were attended by 700 or 800 persons, while as time went, on some of the most distinguished chemists and physicists of Great Britain were numbered among its professors.

With its funds and endowments augmented from time to time, the institution progressed steadily. Its name changed from Anderson's Institution to Anderson's University and then to Anderson's College; in 1886 the non-medical part o£ the institution was incorporated with five other establishments under the name of Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College and since 1912 has been called the Royal Technical College. Like its name, its home has been changed from time to time, and its present fine building was erected in 1903. While the Royal Technical Collego is Anderson's greatest monument, it may also be recalled that the Mechanics' Institutions which sprang up in this country about a hundred years ago were moulded on the society formed by the mechanics' class of the Andersonians which seceded from the main institution in 1823, the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution being founded a year before the London Mechanics' Institution.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1926/01/15