Biography of John Anderson
John Anderson (1726-1796), nicknamed "Jolly Jack Phosphorus" by his students, was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University from 1757 until 1796 and Clerk of the University, 1768-1769. The Anderson College building is named for him.
Born in Rosneath in Dunbartonshire, Anderson graduated MA from the University in 1745. After working as a private tutor, he was appointed Professor of Oriental Languages at the University in December 1754. In 1757 he transferred to the Chair of Natural Philosophy.
Anderson was an energetic character, who served as a soldier during the Jacobite rising in the 1740s; published academic texts on subjects including experimental physics and the use of field artillery; designed a cannon, which he presented to the French nation in 1791; and in 1772 installed Glasgow's first lightning conductor on the College steeple. He was a friend of the University's instrument maker, James Watt, and asked the latter to repair a steam engine.
The Professor was also a quarrelsome individual who became heavily involved in the factional squabbling and costly litigation which plagued the University during the late 18th century. Embittered by the experience, he bequeathed his estate to found a new university in the city. Anderson's Institution, one of the "ancestors" of the University of Strathclyde, was founded by his executors in 1796.
In 1887 Anderson's Institution's medical college, founded in 1800, was incorporated as a separate and distinct institution, Anderson's College Medical School (later The Anderson College of Medicine). In 1947 the College was absorbed by the University.