Penn State chemistry community grieves loss of Professor Emeritus James Anderson

Maria Landschoot
January 27, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Physics James “Jim” Bernhard Anderson passed away on Jan. 14, at the age of 85. Anderson joined the faculty at Penn State in 1974 as a professor of chemistry and physics, and was named an Evan Pugh Professor in 1995.

James B. Anderson

James B. Anderson

IMAGE: Penn State

Born Nov. 16, 1935, in Cleveland, Ohio, Anderson was raised in Morgantown, West Virginia. Before coming to Penn State, he served as an engineer with Shell Chemical Company, a professor of chemical engineering at Princeton University, and a professor of engineering at Yale University. During his career he also served as a visiting professor at Cambridge University, the University of Milan, the University of Kaiserslautern, the University of Göttingen, Free University of Berlin, and RWTH Aachen University.

Anderson was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the American Physical Society, a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior Research Award, and a recipient of the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal and the Evan Pugh Medal.

He retired in 2014 after 40 years as a Penn State faculty member.

Among his colleagues and friends, Anderson was known as a brilliant theorist with a wry smile and sharp wit. He was also popular and well-respected among students as a teacher and as a mentor. His colleagues remember him as a kind and compassionate scientist and admired his ability to see things from a unique and different viewpoint. His creativity made him both a successful academic and inspiring mentor and teacher.

In the lab, Anderson pioneered the development of the quantum Monte Carlo method of simulating the Schrödinger equation, which improved predictions for quantum chemistry. He also specialized in the molecular dynamics of reactive collisions. His group was active in the research areas of kinetics, chemical dynamics, and molecular dynamics. The Anderson group also investigated using high-performance computing in materials physics and chemistry with the aim of creating more accurate predictions for larger organic systems and diamond-like materials.

Outside of the lab, Anderson enjoyed traveling with his family and outdoor activities like swimming, biking, squash, and scuba diving.

Anderson is survived by his wife, Nancy Trotter Anderson; his brother John Anderson; his sister Louise Anderson; his three children, John Anderson, Nancy Dickson and Christine Maclay; and seven grandchildren, Collin Anderson, Brennan Anderson, Sarah Dickson, Wesley Dickson, Laura Maclay, Elizabeth Maclay and Victoria Ratchford.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the State College Food Bank in memory of Professor Jim Anderson.

Last Updated January 27, 2021