Adam Anderson ~ Schoolmaster, Engineer, and Professor of Natural Philosophy

Born 29th June 1780 at Tulliallan Adam Anderson made several contributions to Perth. He was Rector of Perth Academy (from 1809) and was part of the team responsible for the establishment of the Perth Water Works (1830-32); this building now houses the J. D. Fergusson Collection as the Fergusson GalleryPerth Academywas founded by the local council in 1761 under pressure from an enthusiast of natural science, Reverend John Boner, minister of the West Church. Rector of Perth Academy, Adam Anderson concerned himself with numerous engineering projects – gas and water supply as well as matters to do with navigation of the Tay. He helped pioneer the use of gas lighting in Perth and the supply of water from the Tay by steam engine. In doing so he brought together skills that he possessed in chemistry, physics, geology, mathematics, architecture, and politics. Adam Anderson published widely on scientific and related matters and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1820. In 1827 the University of St. Andrews awarded him an honorary LLB. As an educationalist Anderson worked for the extension of education to working class children and adults – a Mechanics Institute was set up as a result. A Liberal he took part in agitation around the 1832 Reform Act.

Anderson spent a great deal of time in pursuit of a Chair at a university and succeeded in 1837 (3rd August) when he gained a Chair of Natural Philosophy at St Andrews. Anderson chose to reside in St Andrews during term time and returned to Perth outside these periods. The Anderson home was one of the large houses on St. Leonard’s Bank. When he died on 5th December 1846 his coffin was escorted from St Andrews to Perth by a cortege for a civic funeral in the town.

Perth Museum and Art Gallery houses a painting of him by J. M. Barclay, a local painter. In 1849 a philosophical and scientific institute was formed in Perth with the title The Andersonian Institute.

He is the subject of a book by Kenneth J. Cameron, The Schoolmaster Engineer. Adam Anderson of Perth and St Andrews 1780-1846, 2nd edition (Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2007)