John Burdon-Sanderson

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Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson, 1st Baronet, FRS,[1] HFRSE D.Sc. (21 December 1828 – 23 November 1905) was an English physiologist born near Newcastle upon Tyne, and a member of a well known Northumbrian family.[2]

John Scott Burdon-Sanderson in 1870
Dr. J Burdon-Sanderson: 1894 Vanity Fair caricature by Spy


He was born at Jesmond near Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 21 December 1828 the son of Richard Burdon (1791-1865) and his wife Elizabeth Sanderson. His paternal grandfather was Sir Thomas Burdon.[3]

He received his medical education at the University of Edinburgh with the thesis "On the metamorphoses of the coloured corpuscles in extravasated blood" [4]and at Paris. Settling in London, he became Medical Officer of Health for Paddington in 1856 and four years later physician to the Middlesex Hospital and the Brompton Consumption hospitals.[2]

When diphtheria appeared in England in 1858 he was sent to investigate the disease at the different points of outbreak, and in subsequent years he carried out a number of similar inquiries, e.g. into the cattle plague and into cholera in 1866. In 1871, he reported that Penicillium inhibited the growth of bacteria, an observation which places him among the forerunners of Alexander Fleming.[5] He became first principal of the Brown Institution at Lambeth in 1871, and in 1874 was appointed Jodrell Professor of Physiology at University College London, retaining that post until 1882. When the Waynflete Chair of Physiology was established at Oxford in 1882, he was chosen to be its first occupant, and immediately found himself the object of a furious anti-vivisectionist agitation. The proposal that the university should spend a large amount of money providing him with a suitable laboratory, lecture rooms, etc., in which to carry on his work, was strongly opposed, by some on grounds of economy, but largely because he was an upholder of the usefulness and necessity of experiments upon animals. It was, however, eventually carried by a small majority (88 to 85), and in the same year the Royal Society awarded him a Royal Medal in recognition of his researches into the electrical phenomena exhibited by plants and the relations of minute organisms to disease, and of the services he had rendered to physiology and pathology. In 1885 the University of Oxford was asked to vote £500 a year for three years for the purposes of the laboratory, then approaching completion. This proposal was fought with the utmost bitterness by Sanderson's opponents, the anti-vivisectionists including E. A. Freeman, John Ruskin and Bishop Mackarness of Oxford. Ultimately the money was granted by 412 to 244 votes.[2]

In 1895 Sanderson was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, resigning the post in 1904. In 1899 he was created a Baronet, of Banbury Road in the Parish of Saint Giles in the City of Oxford.[6] His attainments, both in biology and medicine, brought him many honours. He was Croonian Lecturer to the Royal Society in 1867 and 1877 and to the Royal College of Physicians in 1891. He gave the Harveian Oration before the College of Physicians in 1878, acted as President of the British Association at Nottingham in 1893 and served on three Royal Commissions: on Hospitals (1883), on Tuberculosis, Meat and Milk[7] (1890), and on a University for London (1892).[2]

In February 1902 he received the honorary degree Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) from the Victoria University of Manchester, in connection with the 50th jubilee celebrations of the establishment of the university.[8]

He died in Oxford on 23 November 1905. He is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford.


In 1853 he married the author Ghetal Herschell, daughter of Ridley Haim Herschell. His wife wrote his biography.[9] They had no children.

He was maternal uncle to the scientist John Scott Haldane.

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ "Burdon-Sanderson; Sir; John Scott (1828–1905)". Fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society. Retrieved 14 August 2009.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Burdon-Sanderson, Sir John Scott". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 811.
  3. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  4. ^ Burdon-Sanderson, J. (1851). "On the metamorphoses of the coloured corpuscles in extravasated blood". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Sherry F. Queener et al., Beta-lactam Antibiotics for Clinical Use, Informa Health Care, 1986, ISBN 0824773861, 9780824773861, p. 4, partly available on Google Books. Refers to : J. B. Sanderson. Appendix No 5. " Further report of researches concerning the intimate pathology of contagion. The origin and distribution of microzymes (bacteria) in water, and the circumstances which determine their existence in the tissue and liquids of the living body ". 13th Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council [John Simon], with Appendix, 1870. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1871, pp. 56–66; reprinted in Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science, n. ser., XI, 1871, pp. 323–352, available on the site of the Journal of Cell Science.
  6. ^ "No. 27110". The London Gazette. 22 August 1899. p. 5249.
  7. ^ Royal Commission on Tuberculosis: Report of the Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into the Effect of Food derived from Tuberculous Animals on Human Health. London, 1895
  8. ^ "University intelligence". The Times (36704). London. 1 March 1902. p. 12.
  9. ^

External linksEdit

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Banbury Road)