Rudolph John Anderson was born in Harna, Sweden. He attended Tulane University and graduated in 1906. After several interruptions in his studies, Anderson eventually earned a Ph.D. with Graham Lusk at the Cornell University Medical College.
Anderson then became chief biochemist and professor at Cornell University. His initial research focused on the dietary polyneuritis of poultry and the chemistry and genetics of grape pigments. He then turned his attention to the nucleic acids of plants, but got sidetracked and initiated a long series of investigations into the sterols present in the oils of plant seeds. This research led to Anderson's relocation to Yale University in 1926, where he began to work on isolating the sterols of the tubercle bacillus. He eventually became professor of chemistry at Yale, and held this post until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1948. He was unable to find any sterol-like substances in tubercle bacillus and instead concentrated on the substances present in the fat solvent– soluble material of the organism. For more information on Anderson's work on tubercle bacillus, see his Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). Anderson also examined the fatty substances contained in the avian and bovine strains of the organism as well as the nonpathogenic timothy grass bacillus and the leprosy bacillus.
In addition to his research endeavors, Anderson was managing editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1937 to 1958. During his time as editor the circulation of the journal increased nearly four-fold, and the number of pages printed annually nearly doubled. Anderson was elected president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1941 and to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1946. That same year, he became a member of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences, and in 1947 he was awarded the honorary degree of M.D. by the University of Lund in Sweden. He received the Trudeau Medal from the National Tuberculosis Association in 1948 and was made an honorary member of the Connecticut Medical Society in 1951.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2008) Chemical investigations of tubercle bacillus: The work of Rudolph J. Anderson. J. Biol. Chem. 283 (10).