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Tempest Anderson: Volcano Chaser

New display to mark 100th anniversary of his death.

Opens July 20th 2013

An exhibition delving into the daring life of one of York’s most renowned explorers is opening in July at the Yorkshire Museum - 100 years after this death.

Tempest Anderson (December 7, 1846 – August 26, 1913) travelled across the world hunting volcanoes, meeting the indigenous peoples and bringing back thousands of photographs to show people of York and around the country.

Volcanoes became a particular fascination of Anderson and it is said he always had his bags packed ready to leave York at the first news of an eruption.
To mark the anniversary of his death the Yorkshire Museum will showcase some of his photographs and artefacts similar to what Anderson would have taken on his trips around the world.

It will also contain history of his life in York, where he was a doctor who specialised in conditions of the human eye (ophthalmology), at his family practice on Stonegate.

Emma Williams, assistant curator of science and archaeology, learning said: “Tempest Anderson was one of York’s pioneering figures and made valuable contributions to medicine, photography and volcanology. It was the latter for which he became particularly well known and he travelled all over the world to see the latest eruptions – sometimes risking his life.

“This display will showcase some of his photographs as well as raising awareness of one of York’s most colourful characters.”

The display, in the Museum’s Reading Room on the first floor, will look at Anderson’s early life in York and his success as an ophthalmologist. It will include surgical equipment similar to what Anderson would have used.

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It will then go on to look at Anderson’s sense of adventure and quest for knowledge, which took him all around the world. It will feature some of the 5,000 photographs he took as well as objects such as his telephone, on loan from York Medical Society, which was the first one in York. It will also include some of Anderson’s ash samples which he took from volcanoes in places such as New Zealand, the West Indies, Iceland and the USA.

Loans from York Castle Museum, such as a magic lantern, a pinhole camera, travel bag and a pocket watch will be used to illustrate the type of equipment Tempest Anderson would have used on his travels.

Tempest Anderson: A brief biography

Born in York in 1846, Tempest Anderson studied medicine at University College, London, and returned to York to work in his father’s practice, specialising in ophthalmic medicine. He also worked in the County Hospital in York.
He was a keen mountaineer, starting with an interest in glaciers and later moving on to a lifelong fascination with volcanoes.

It is said that he always had two bags packed in his bedroom, one full of clothing for warm climates, one for cold, so he could leave at short notice.
By 1900, he had visited and photographed most of the European volcanoes as well as those of Iceland as well as travelling to the USA.

But it was in 1902, that Tempest Anderson made his greatest contribution to science.

The Royal Society asked him to accompany Dr Flett, of the Geological Survey, to study the recent eruptions of Mont Pelée in Martinique and La Soufrié in St Vincent, both in the West Indies.

Whilst there he observed nuee ardente eruptions and was one of the first to compare them to avalanches which he had observed in the Alps. These he described in a major paper published by the Royal Society. This was an important contribution to ‘volcanology’ – the study of volcanoes.

Back at home he gave lots of lectures using ‘magic lantern slides’ an early form of slide viewer. His pictures gave people the chance to see landscapes they had never seen before. He also took many images of the people who lived in the countries where he stayed.

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He became a prominent figure in York – a pioneer of town planning; Sheriff of York in 1894 and was the first man in the city to have a telephone.
The Tempest Anderson Hall was added to the Yorkshire Museum building in 1912 , using funds given by him.

He died in 1913 on the Red Sea on the way home from his last trip and is buried at Suez. He never married and left half his estate to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, the founders of the Yorkshire Museum.
Today the Yorkshire Museum has 5,000 pictures taken by him.

A more in-depth biography can be found here:

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For further Information contact Lee Clark, communications manager, telephone 01904 687673 or email