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Prof. Adam Anderson


1780 - 1846

Educationalist and pioneering engineer, who modernised the utility infrastructure of Perth. Born the son of a ships-master in Kincardine (Fife), Anderson was educated at the University of St Andrews alongside Thomas Chalmers (1780 - 1847), who became a close friend. He began his career as a private tutor at Fern (Angus), and in Edinburgh, but was appointed Rector of Perth Academy in 1809, serving in this role for 28 years. He built the reputation of the school and advocated the inclusion of science, and particularly chemistry, in the curriculum. In 1822, Anderson became involved with a scheme to bring gas lighting to Perth. He gave a series of lectures on the benefits, was appointed to the Board of the Perth Gas Light Company and designed a gasworks for the town. So successful was the project that he asked to supervise similar schemes in Arbroath and Montrose. Anderson went on to improve the inadequate public water supply in Perth, designing a new system which pumped water from the River Tay. He was the architect of the Water Works (or Round House), which now houses the Fergusson Gallery. Completed in 1832, this is said to be the first cast-iron building in the world. Anderson was also involved in improving Perth's port at Friarton and bringing the railway from Dundee.

In 1837, his appointment to the Chair of Natural Philosophy at St. Andrews University attracted some controversy. Initially supported by Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868), their relationship deteriorated owing to Brewster's cantankerous nature. Anderson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1820 and wrote numerous scientific papers on a diversity of topics including dyeing, fermentation, gas lighting, meteorology, navigation, physical geography and the measurement of the height of mountains using a barometer.

He died suddenly in St Andrews, but his body was returned to Perth where he was buried in Greyfriars Cemetery following a grand civic funeral.


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