Ship owner. Born in the Bod of Gremista at Lerwick (Shetland), the son of a fish curer who had come from Unst, Anderson joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16, and fought in the Napoleonic wars. Moving to London (England) he was co-founder of the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company (1833) which became the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (1837). He tried to persuade the British government of the value of building a canal linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea (1841) but failed, and it was not until a year after his death than the French built the Suez Canal. Anderson introduced the concept of cruising for pleasure (1844), rather than simply a means of transportation.
Anderson was Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland (1847-52). Also formed the Union Steam Ship Company (1853), to supply coal to his P&O ships. This later became the core of the great Union-Castle line.
His various philanthropic gifts included endowing the Anderson Educational Institute (now Anderson High School) in Lerwick which opened in 1862.
His company was broken up though demergers and takeover, with P&O Cruises having merged with the Carnival Corporation in 2002, the P&O Nedlloyd container business sold in 2004 and P&O Ferries owned by Dubai World since 2005.