On January 11, 2017, Robert G. W. Anderson was named the new president and CEO of the Science History Institute, then known as the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Anderson was already well known to Institute; from July 2016 he had served as interim president, and his experience with the organization goes back much further, having served on the board since 2006, recently as vice president.
Anderson studied chemistry at Oxford University, continuing on to a doctorate on inelastic neutron scattering. Later, he took an Oxford diploma in British archaeology. He has since been made an honorary fellow of his old Oxford college, St. John’s. Deciding to pursue a museum career, he became a curator in the history of science at the Royal Scottish Museum and then moved on to the Science Museum in London, where he became keeper (or head) of the chemistry department. Before long he was recalled to Scotland as director of the National Museums, merging the Museum of Antiquities and the Royal Scottish Museum to form a single entity. The opportunity to become director of the British Museum arose, and he was appointed in 1992. The major change at the museum at this time was the departure of the British Library and the consequent availability of much-needed space in the center of the building to form what is now the Great Court, opened in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II. For this project a vigorous campaign to raise 110 million pounds had to be put in place. After a decade at the museum, Anderson stood down and has been concentrating on research: from 2002 to 2003 at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University and later at Cambridge University, where he held fellowships at the Centre for Arts, Social Science and the Humanities and later at Clare Hall, a graduate college at which he has served as vice president and is now an emeritus fellow.
Anderson has been a member of many history of science, museum, and humanities boards in Europe and the United States. He has published extensively on chemistry in the Enlightenment, on museum history, and on scientific instruments. He has served as president of the British Society for the History of Science, the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, and the Independent Libraries Association. For his research work he won the Dexter Award of the American Chemical Society, the Bunge Prize of the German Chemical Society, and the Wheeler Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The French government made him Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His work now continues in Philadelphia.