Anderson was born in 1846 at York and was educated at St Peter’s School, York and University College London. He qualified as an ophthalmic surgeon and was for a time a consultant at York County Hospital. In his spare time he did a lot of travelling and was especially interested in visiting and photographing active volcanoes. In 1902 he was part of the Royal Society expedition to St Vincent and Martinique to study La Soufrière and Pelée. Anderson died on 26 August 1913 on his way back from an expedition to the volcanoes of Indonesia and the Philippines.