ANDERSON, Sir Francis (1858-1941)


ANDERSON, Sir Francis (1858-1941)
philosopher and educationist
son of Francis Anderson, was born at Glasgow on 3 September 1858. He was a pupil-teacher at the age of 14, and proceeding to Glasgow university had a brilliant course and graduated M.A. He was awarded Sir Richard Jebb's prize for Greek literature, took first place in the philosophical classes of Professors Veitch and Caird, and won two scholarships. He was for two years assistant to the professor of moral philosophy and came to Melbourne in 1886 as assistant to the Rev. Dr Strong (q.v.) at the Australian Church. This was a valuable experience to Anderson as his work brought him in contact with both the best and the worst types of human nature. In 1888 he was appointed lecturer in philosophy at the university of Sydney, and was the first Challis professor of logic and mental philosophy from the beginning of 1890. He held this position until the end of 1921, when he retired and became emeritus professor.
Anderson was president of the mental science and education section at the meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science held at Brisbane in January 1895 and gave an address on "Politics and Education", and on 26 June 1901, at a conference of teachers, in an address on "The Public School System of New South Wales", spoke frankly on "the defects, limitations and needs of the existing system of education". Mr J. Perry, the minister of public instruction, immediately called a conference of inspectors and principal officers of his department, and in 1902 J. W. Turner and (Sir) G. H. Knibbs (q.v.) were appointed as commissioners to inquire into educational systems in Europe and America. Their report confirmed Anderson's strictures, the pupil-teacher system was abolished, and the training of teachers at the Teachers' College was reconstructed. Thirteen years later Anderson was able to report an immense improvement in the state of education in New South Wales (see his chapter on "Educational Policy and Development" in the Federal Handbook prepared for the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Australia in 1914). Anderson was president of the social and statistical science section at the meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science held at Adelaide in 1907, and gave an address on "Liberalism and Socialism". This was followed by a paper on "Sociology in Australia. A Plea for its Teaching" given at the Sydney meeting held in 1911. Following on the discussion a resolution was unanimously passed recommending the institution of a chair of sociology in Australia.
At the time of Anderson's resignation at the end of 1921 it was proposed to have his portrait painted, but he suggested that instead of this a frieze emblematic of the history of philosophy should be placed in the philosophy lecture room of the university. Eventually two panels were painted for it by Norman Carter, one representing Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the other Descartes, Bacon, and Spinoza.
Anderson became the first editor of the Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy from 1923 to 1926, and he also took a great deal of interest in the tutorial classes and Workers' Education Association movements. Another interest was the League of Nations. He died at Sydney on 24 June 1941. He was twice married (1) to Maybanke Selfe Wolstenholme, and (2) to Josephine Wight who survived him. He was knighted in 1936. Some of his papers and addresses were published separately as pamphlets. His monograph on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity was issued by the Association of Psychology and Philosophy.
As a teacher Anderson was always interesting and free from pedantry. He had a gift of exposition and was passionately in earnest especially when some great truth was in question. His greatest interests lay in moral philosophy and sociology; logic and psychology had less attraction for him, though in his early days at Sydney he had had to cover every branch of his subjects including even politics and economics. He was a good friend, a great worker for education, and a distinguished figure in the cultural life of his state.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 1941; H. T. L., The Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, August 1941; Calendar of the University of Sydney, 1923, p. 782; Burke's Peerage etc., 1937; S. H. Smith and G. T. Spaull, History of Education in New South Wales.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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