Dr Tempest Anderson - volcano chaser, adventurer, inventor and photographer - was one of the most colourful characters in Victorian York. Next Friday, a room will be dedicated to him at the headquarters of the York Medical Society in Stonegate - which is Anderson's former home. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

THERE'S a great photo of Tempest Anderson sitting in front of a field tent during an expedition to remotest Iceland. It was August 1890, and he was presumably hot on the heels of an exploding volcano: photographing and recording these was a passion which took him all over the world.

He's sitting on an upturned crate at the entrance to his tent, wearing long leather boots, checked breeches, a cravat, and a thick waistcoat and jacket. A horse grazes in the background, and on his head is a soft hat with the brim pushed back.

With his thick beard and weather-beaten features, he looks every inch the Victorian explorer. Which he was. But this extraordinary man - a Yorkie through and through - was so much more, too.

A York doctor who specialised in diseases of the eye (and whose home, at 23 Stonegate, is now the headquarters of the York Medical Society), from the 1880s onwards he spent much of his life travelling the world, chasing (and photographing) exploding volcanoes. He witnessed them all – Vesuvius, Krakatoa and, in 1902, the eruptions that devastated the islands of Martinique and St Vincent in the West Indies.

He was said to have always had two bags packed in his bedroom – one full of clothing for warm climates, one full of clothing for cold, so that he could leave at a moment’s notice.

He frequently put his life at risk by venturing up the very flanks and into the mouths of active volcanoes. And during the course of his travels he took thousands of photographs – of volcanic explosions; of his camps and bivouacs; of the indigenous tribes and peoples he met – and used them to give ‘magic lantern’-style illustrated lectures to enthralled audiences back home.

It is as a globe-trotting vulcanologist that he's probably best remembered today. But it wasn't until the middle of his life that he even became interested in volcanoes, as a hobby. By then, he had already established himself as a doctor, inventor, photographer, Alpinist, philanthropist and even prison reformer. He was one of those Victorians who seemed interested in just about everything. Apart, that is, from a conventional family life: he remained resolutely unmarried all his life.

Anderson was born in Stonegate, where his father William, a successful surgeon and one-time Sheriff of York, had his medical practice. Anderson senior named his son 'Tempest' after a prominent West Yorkshire family to which he was related. Anderson junior seems to have spent much of his life living up to the name.

The young Anderson went to school at St Peter's before studying medicine at University College, London, specialising in ophthalmology.

He returned to York, where he became at various times a surgeon at the York Eye Institute and York County Hospital; a consulting physician to the lunatic asylum at Bootham Hospital; a prison medical officer; and surgeon to the Great Northern Railway.

None of these seemed to have fully satisfied his restless inventiveness, however. So along the way he developed a keen interest in photography; invented several medical instruments; patented a safety signalling system for the railways; visited prisons in Paris and subsequently published monographs on the wellbeing of prisoners, sanitation, drains and town planning; invented a 'panoramic' camera with a revolving lens; served as Sheriff of York, like his father before him; and became a keen Alpinist.

Then, in 1883, at the age of 43, he began casting about for a new interest to keep himself busy. He decided he wanted to devote himself to some branch of science where he felt he could make a contribution as an amateur.

He'd already become interested in geology through his Alpine walks. And so, he wrote later in life, 'I determined on Vulcanology, which had the additional advantage of offering exercise in the open air, and in districts often remote and picturesque'.

So began the globe-trotting adventures which were ultimately to eclipse everything else he had achieved.

In a piece written for the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, of which Anderson became president, Dr Jim Spriggs of the York Medical Society described some of his adventures.

"Almost all of his trips from 1883 onwards were for the purpose of observing and recording volcanic rock formations and, if possible, actual volcanic eruptions," Dr Spriggs wrote.

"His walking holidays in the Alps, the South of France or Southern Italy (Vesuvius, Etna, Stromboli), gradually lengthened into expeditions to Iceland, Central America, Mexico and the West Indies, USA and Canada, South Africa, Hawaii, Samoa and New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines."

His most famous journey, however, was to the West Indies in the summer of 1902, where he witnessed the dramatic and devastating eruption of Mont Pelée on the island of Martinique - where he narrowly escaped with his life - and of La Soufriére, on neighbouring St Vincent.

Everywhere he went he took with him his beloved camera, Dr Spriggs wrote, recording with astonishing clear-headedness not only the eruptions and their devastating aftermaths, but also the people and places he encountered.

He amassed a collection of several thousand glass photographic plates, which he used to give illustrated lecturers to audiences back home in York and across the UK. After his death, the entire collection went to the Yorkshire Museum. It is, Dr Spriggs wrote, a 'fantastic visual record of his geological journeys around the world, the volcanoes he studied, and the people he met'.

It was while returning from one of his expeditions that Dr Anderson died, at the age of 67, in 1913.

He had been visiting Indonesia to photograph and record the famous explosion of Krakatoa, in Java, that year.

"He became very sick of heat apoplexy and enteric fever on his voyage home (and) died on board ship," Dr Spriggs writes.

The ship was actually sailing through the Red Sea at the time, and Anderson was subsequently buried at Suez. But his death caused great distress back at home in York, says retired gynaecologist David Pring of the York Medical Society. "There were many tributes to him: including a plaque in York Minster."

Stuart Ogilvy, then assistant curator of natural sciences at the York Museums Trust, told this newspaper in 2013, on the hundredth anniversary of Anderson's death, that in his day the explorer was hugely well known. He was almost the David Attenborough of his time: a man who, through his magic lantern shows and illustrated lectures, gave audiences a glimpse of a world, of peoples and places, they’d never otherwise have seen.

So it is a little surprising that today, apart from the hall named after him at the Yorkshire Museum, this extraordinary figure is so little remembered in his native York.

In an attempt to change that, the York Medical Society will be dedicating one of the rooms at its HQ in 23 Stonegate - Anderson's former home - to the great explorer.

The Tempest Anderson Room, which will include various memorabilia from his life, including some of his volcano photographs, will be formally opened next Friday. It will be a private event, by invitation only.

"But we are hoping that we will be able to open it up for viewing by the public at some point," says David Pring.

Let's hope so. Because this remarkable man deserves to be better known.

In the meantime, it is worth taking a look even at the outside of the Medical Society building.

It still has Dr Anderson's medical nameplate from the days when he lived there. "And if you walk up to the front door you'll see a metal tube sticking out above you to the left," says Jim Spriggs. "This is the remains of a shaking tube that once led up to his bedroom so that he could be called night or day to attend an urgent case..."