Anderson, Ernest Masson

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Anderson, Ernest Masson

(b. Falkirk, Scotland, 9 August 1877; d. Edinburgh, Scotland, 8 August 1960)


Anderson, a structural geologist, tectonist, and mathematical geophysicist, was a son of Rev. John Anderson and Annie Masson, daughter of a minister. He was educated at Dundee High School and Edinburgh University, from which he received the B.Sc. in 1897, the M.A. with first class honours in mathematics and natural philosophy in 1898, and the D.Sc. in 1933. In 1915 he married Alice Catherine Esson, by whom he had two daughters.

Anderson joined the Geological Survey of Great Britain in 1903. Except during 1916–1917, when he served in the army and was wounded in France, he worked in Scotland. Temporary ill health forced him to retire as a senior geologist in 1928.

He was a Christian free-thinker; self-effacing in spite of outstanding mathematical ability, he was characterized by his innate courtesy. Anderson was awarded three medals: by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Geological Society of London, and the Geological Society of Edinburgh.

Anderson contributed to many Geological Survey memoirs. His main scientific work stemmed from official problems but was done in leisure time and published almost entirely in other than governmental journals. This work concerned the dynamics of faulting and igneous intrusion, the lineation of schists, crustal heat and structure, and volcanism. After his retirement he expanded all these studies by mathematical analysis.

In 1905 Anderson gave the first explanation of the dynamic basis of the three main classes of faults—reversed, normal, and wrench (a term he preferred to “transcurrent” or “strike-slip”). He later extended his structural studies in discussions of the dynamics of intrusion of igneous sheets and dikes and of the formation of cauldron subsidences (1924, 1936, 1937, 1938). The Dynamics of Faulting and Dyke Formation (1942, 1951) has been acclaimed by W. B. Harland as a landmark in structural geology. E. S. Hills, however, has criticized some applications of Anderson’s theories; H. Jeffreys has questioned certain of his views on fracture; and G. R. Robson and K.G. Barr have rejected a postulate in his theory of igneous intrusion.

Anderson’s theory regarding lineation in schists of the Scottish Highlands was inspired by the work of his Geological Survey supervisor C. T. Clough. From kinematic analysis Anderson inferred that lineations, which may be due to subcrustal convection currents, are parallel to the direction of transport or shear, and that the planes of quartz and mica girdles are normal to that direction (1923, 1948, 1952), These unorthodox views were supported by A. Kvale and W.Q. Kennedy and criticized by G. Wilson and F. C. Phillips. E. S. Hills accepted Anderson’s theory in part only.

Anderson’s geophysical work stemmed from his early temperature studies in deep bores and colliery workings in Scotland (1909). He later amplified his discussion of heat flow in relation to Britain and the earth’s crust in general (1934, 1938, 1940). His detailed criticism of the thermal earth-contraction theory (1934) led to his collaboration with W. Q. Kennedy; he and Kennedy suggested that basaltic magmas originate by the fusion of crustal layers at certain depths (1938). This idea has been used, with modifications, by A. F. Buddington, A. G. MacGregor, and F. Walker.

Anderson made an important contribution to mineral optics by giving the first fully satisfactory explanation of the “Becke line” effect seen in transparent mineral sections under the microscope (1910). He also dealt with other optical problems (1912, 1914, 1933).


I. Original Works. Anderson’s writings include “The Dynamics of Faulting,” in Transactions of the Edinburgh Geological Society, 8 (1905), 387–402; “On the Temperature–gradients of Deep Bore, With Special Reference to Those of the Balfour Bore, Cameron Bridge, Fifeshire,” ibid., 9 (1909), 167–178; in G. W. Grabham, “An Improved Form of Petrographical Microscope.” in Mineralogical Magazine, 15 (1910), 342–343; “Are Eyes Ever Autophanous?” in Nature, 88 (1912), 484; “The Path of a Ray of Light in a Rotating Homogeneous and Isotropic Solid,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 34 (1914), 69–76; “The Geology of the Schists of the Schichallion District, Perthshire,” in Quarter Journal of the Geological Society of London, 79 (1923), 423–442; In the Tertiary and Post-Tertiary Geology of Mull, Loch Aline and Oban, Memoir of the Geological Survey (Edinburgh, 1924), pp. 11–12; “A Proposed Logarithmic Method of Calculating Exposures and Apertures,” in Photographic Journal (Feb. 1933), 71–72; “Earth Contraction and Mountain Building,” in Gerlands Beiträge zur Geophisik, 42 (1934), 133–159, and 43 (1934), 1–18; “The Dynamics of the Formation of Cone-sheets, Ring-dykes and Cauldronsubsidences,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society, of Edinburgh”, 61 (1936). 128–157; “Cone-sheets and Ring-dykes : The Dynamical Explanation,” in Bulletin Volcanologique, 2nd Series, 1 (1937), 35–40; “Crustal Layers and the Origin of Magmas,” ibid., 3 (1938), 24–82, written with W. Q. Kennedy; “The Dynamics of Sheet Intrusion,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 58 (1938), 242–251; “The Loss of Heat by Conduction From the Earth’s Crust in Britain,” ibid., 60 (1940), 192–209; The dynamics of Faulting and Dyke Formation, with Applications to Britain (Edinburgh and London, 1942 2nd ed., rev., 1951); “On Lineation and Petrofabric Structure and the Shearing Movement by Which They Have Been Produced,” in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 104 (1948), 99–126; and “Lineation in Relation to Sub-crustal Convection Currents,” in Geological Magazine, 89 (1952), 113–123.

II. Secondary Literature. Writings that deal with Anderson or his work are A. F. Buddington, “Some Petro-logical Concepts and the Interior of the Earth,” in American Mineralogist, 28 (1943), 119–140, esp. 137, 139; W. B. Harland, ’The Dynamics of Faulting (A Review),” in Geological Magazine, 90 (1953), 300–301; E. S. Hills, Elements of Structural Geology (London, 1965), pp. 178, 426; H. Jeffreys, “Note on Gracture,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 56 (1936), 158–163; W. Q. Kennedy, discussion of Anderson’s paper in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 104 (1948), 131; A. Kvalc. “Linear Structures and Their Relation to Movement in the Caledonides of Scandinavia and Scotland,” ibid., 109 (1953), 51–64, esp. 60, 62, 64: A.G. MacGregor “Problems of Carboniferous-Permian Volcanicity in Scotland,” ibid., 104 (1948), 133–152, esp. 144–145, “Ernest Masson Anderson, M.A., D.Sc., F.G.S.” (an obituary notice), in Year Book of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1961), pp. 5–6, and “Ernest Masson Anderson” (an obituary notice), in Proceedings of the Geological Society of London, no. 1592 (1961), 137–138; F. C. Phillips. “Apparent Coincidences in the Life-history of the Moine Schists,” in Geological Magazine, 88 (1951), 225–235; G. R. Robson and K. G. Barr. “The Effect of Stress on Faulting and Minor Intrusions in the Vicinity of a Magma Body,” in Bulletin volcanologique, 27 (1964), 1–16; F. Walker, “The Part Played by Tholeiitic Magma in the Carbo-Permian Vulcanicity of Central Scotland,” in Mineralogical Magazine, 34 (1965), 489–516, esp. 512–515; and G. Wilson, discussion of Anderson’s paper in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 104 (1948), 126–127.

A.G. MacGregor

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Anderson, Ernest Masson

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