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Thomas Anderson (chemist)

Thomas Anderson (born 2 July 1819, died 2 November 1874) was a Scottish chemist who is best remembered for discovering pyridine.[1]

Born in Edinburgh, Anderson was educated at Leith High School and the Edinburgh Academy before studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, from where he graduated in 1841. Having developed an interest in chemistry at university, he spent several years studying in Europe, including spells under Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Justus von Liebig, before returning to Edinburgh.

After working at the University of Edinburgh and the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, Anderson succeeded Thomas Thomson as regius professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow in 1852. The following year his work on alkaloids led him to discover the correct structure for codeine.[2] Later he discovered pyridine and related compounds such as picoline through studies on the distillation of bone-oil and other animal matter.[3]

As well as his work on organic chemistry, Anderson made important contributions to agricultural chemistry, writing over 130 reports on soils, fertilisers and plant diseases. He kept abreast of all areas of science, and was able to advise his colleague Joseph Lister on Pasteur's germ theory and the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic.

In 1872, Anderson was awarded a Royal Medal from the Royal Society. However, his later years were marred by a progressive neurological disease which may have been syphilis.[1] He resigned his chair in early 1874, and died later that year in Chiswick.


  1. ^ a b G. F. Rodwell, ‘Anderson, Thomas (1819–1874)’, rev. T. B. Anderson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, [doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/500]
  2. ^ The crystalline constituents of opium, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 20, 1853, 347–75
  3. ^ The products of the destructive distillation of animal substances Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 25, 1868, 205–16
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Thomas_Anderson_(chemist)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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