Edward Anderson was born in Edinburgh to Edward Ross Anderson and Elizabeth Leith (née Dow). He was educated at Daniel Stewart College, and in 1923 graduated in medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Following this he came south to undertake postgraduate study in London.
While in London, Anderson gained a wide range of psychiatric experience, firstly as an assistant medical officer with the Metropolitan Asylums Board of the London County Council, and in 1929 at the Maudsley Hospital. In 1935 he became medical director of the Cassel Hospital for Functional Nervous Disorders and then, in 1937, having been granted a Rockefeller fellowship, studied under Karl Kleist in Frankfurt-am-Main. It was here that he gained his very considerable knowledge of German psychiatry and of phenomenological psychopathology, a subject which was to interest him throughout the rest of his professional life, and of which he was to become probably the foremost exponent in the United Kingdom.
Following his return from Germany in 1938, Anderson became consultant psychiatrist to Devon County Council and honorary consultant at Torbay Hospital. From 1940 to 1945 he served as neuropsychiatric specialist in the RNVR, being promoted in 1943 to the rank of surgeon commander. In 1947 he returned to the Maudsley Hospital as consultant physician and lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry. He also taught psychiatry at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in Hammersmith.
In 1949 he was appointed professor of psychiatry at the Victoria University of Manchester, becoming the first holder of the chair. He relinquished this post in 1965, a year prior to the normal age of retirement, in order to become a medical visitor in the Office of the Lord Chancellor, while remaining professor emeritus at the University of Manchester.
Other appointments which Anderson held during the course of his career included the presidency of the psychiatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine 1961-1962; of the psychiatric section of the Manchester Medical Society, 1964; and later the same year visiting professor and honorary fellow at the University of Capetown. He was also at one or other time examiner in psychological medicine for the University of London, for the membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians and for the Conjoint Board.
A modest, somewhat self-effacing man, Edward Anderson shunned the limelight, seemingly finding himself more at ease with a small group of his peers or postgraduate students than on the rostrum of a lecture theatre or on some other relatively public occasion. Many of the postgraduates whom he taught benefited greatly by his erudition and later achieved considerable eminence in their chosen specialty.
With undergraduates he was less successful, in that being overawed by the profundity of his knowledge, their interest in psychiatry was not aroused. Wisely, therefore, he tended to delegate much of their teaching to other members of the staff of his department. He was, however, the author of a very successful textbook, Psychiatry, in the Concise Medical Textbook series, which has run into several editions and is widely read by medical students and others both at home and abroad. Although his overall contribution to medical literature was not extensive, some of the papers he wrote must be considered classics of their kind. These included an investigation of collective hallucinations in sailors whose ship was sunk in wartime, a study of depressive illnesses in later life, and perhaps most memorable of all, a masterly pathographical study of the Swedish playwright, Strindberg.
Although Anderson, on account of his retiring nature, was less well known to psychiatrists outside the Maudsley and the Manchester area than perhaps he should have been, he undoubtedly left his mark on the development of British psychiatry, to its lasting benefit.
In 1934 he married Margaret Mottram Hutton who survived him, having borne him two sons and a daughter.
Sir William Trethowen
[Brit.med.J., 1981, 283, 799; Lancet, 1981, 2, 647; Times, 1 Sept 1981; J. Ment. Sci., 1936, 82, 559; J. Roy. Nav. Med. Serv., 1942, 28, 361; Psychol. Med., 1971, 1, 104]