York Museums Trust boss REYAHN KING introduces the photographs of explorer Tempest Anderson

Tempest Anderson was an intrepid world traveller, pioneering photographer and volcanologist as well as a doctor in York.

He explored weird and wonderful landscapes, met the indigenous peoples of far-away communities and brought back amazing photographs that gave people of his time the opportunity to view places they would probably never see.

His photographs often featured volcanoes and his interest in them made him internationally famous and ensured his legacy to science.

Born in Stonegate, York, in 1846, where his father had a successful medical practice, Tempest Anderson was educated at St Peters School. He studied ophthalmology, conditions of the eye, at University College, London. He then returned to York to work in his father’s medical practice, specialising in ophthalmic medicine. He also worked in the County Hospital in York.

He was a great admirer of countryside and wilderness areas and became a keen mountaineer with a particular fondness for glaciers. He made several trips to the Alps on holiday and was a prominent member of the Alpine Club. These trips to the Alps stimulated a burgeoning interest in geology which evolved into his later specialism, volcanology.

From 1883 onwards Tempest Anderson spent much of his leisure time abroad and travelled widely, much of it in volcanic areas of the world. It was said that he kept two bags packed in his bedroom: one full of clothing for warm climates, one for cold, so he could leave at short notice if he heard of a volcanic eruption somewhere. He deemed volcanology a suitable pursuit for “an amateur of limited leisure”.

Anderson’s interest in ophthalmics allowed him to make his own camera equipment and he invented one of the earliest panoramic cameras, which he used in Iceland. This was some years before the first commercial panoramic camera was patented by Kodak. Anderson gave many lectures using magic lantern slides, an early form of slide viewer. Appropriately, the Tempest Anderson Hall was added to the Yorkshire Museum as a lecture theatre in memory of his sister, using funds given by him.

Anderson’s standing as a volcanologist was demonstrated in 1902 when he was commissioned by the Royal Society to accompany John S. Flett of the Geological Survey to investigate the recent eruptions of La Soufriere on St Vincent and Mount Pelée on Martinique. Nearly 30,000 people had died almost instantly during the eruption of Mount Pelée. Anderson and Flett’s account is still considered the most complete analysis of the 1902 eruptions. Tempest Anderson’s photographs record their devastating effects.

These studies in the West Indies led to Anderson’s greatest contribution to science: his comparison of nuée ardentes to avalanches. Nuée ardentes, or pyroclastic flows as they are now largely named, is a violent eruption in which a superheated mixture of volcanic gas, ash, lava and material, including boulders, travels at hurricane speed down the slopes of a volcano. The term nuée ardente refers to the appearance of an incandescent cloud as part of the flow. Tempest Anderson realised that the processes of nuée ardentes and avalanches are essentially similar but the mediums are different. This was an important contribution to the study of volcanoes which were still little understood at the time.

After Tempest Anderson’s death his collection of photographs passed to the Yorkshire Museum. The collection has around 3,500 separate images mostly in the form of quarter plate glass positives and negatives and some early celluloid negatives. They form a record of Anderson’s travels and a tremendous repository of geological and volcanological information much of it important to recent research into volcanological processes and how they affect people today. York Museums Trust have made Tempest Anderson’s photographs available online.

Tempest Anderson died in 1913 on his way back from Indonesia of an illness described as apoplexy or enteric fever. He is buried at Suez. Despite frequent travelling, Anderson had been a prominent figure in York, a pioneer of town planning and Sheriff of York in 1894. He was also the first person in York to have a telephone - with the number York 1!

The house where Tempest Anderson had his practice can still be seen half way down Stonegate. The entrance still has his nameplate on it and is today maintained by the York Medical Society.