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Charles Anderson was born on 5 December 1876 at Moa, Stenness, in the Orkney Islands, and educated in Scotland. He came to Sydney in 1901 as the newly appointed mineralogist at the Australian Museum, where his research work was in morphological crystallography and the chemistry of Australian minerals. Anderson received his Doctor of Science degree from Edinburgh University in 1908. In 1921 he was appointed director of the museum.
Reputedly a charming man, possessed of a whimsical sense of humour, he was also well read and a good linguist. As well as his interest in mineralogy he completed valuable research in the field of vertebrate palaeontology and was internationally recognised for his scholarship, in particular his work with specimens from Lord Howe Island which led to the reclassification of Meiolania, the extinct horned turtle.
Anderson was active in many areas of the advancement of scientific knowledge, notably with the Royal Society and the Anthropological, Linnean and Geographical Societies in New South Wales. He was also a fellow of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, and a corresponding member of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and of the Zoological Society of London.
At the museum he introduced the new idea of displaying animals in large habitat groups and began the publication of the Australian Museum Magazine (later Australian Natural History ) to which he frequently contributed. In 1938 he published A Guide to the Australian Museum and its Contents.
Anderson retired from the museum in 1940. He made his contribution to the war effort working in Communications Censorship, but died suddenly on 25 October 1944.
RO Chalmers, 'Anderson, Charles (1876–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 7, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1979, pp 51–52