Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson, Bart. (1828-1905), English physiologist, was born at West Jesmand, near Newcastle, on the 21st of December 1828. A member of a well-known Northumbrian family, he received his medical education at the university of Edinburgh and at Paris. Settling in London, he became medical officer of health for Paddington in 1856 and four years later physician to the Middlesex and the Brompton Consumption hospitals. When diphtheria appeared in England in 1858 he was sent to investigate the disease at the different points of outbreak, and in subsequent years he carried out a number of similar inquiries, e.g. into the cattle plague and into cholera in 1866. He became first principal of the Brown Institution at Lambeth in 1871, and in 1874 was appointed Jodrell professor of physiology at University College, London, retaining that post till 1882. When the Waynflete chair of physiology was established at Oxford in 1882, he was chosen to be its first occupant, and immediately found himself the object of a furious anti-vivisectionist agitation.
The proposal that the university should spend £10,000 in providing him with a suitable laboratory, lecture-rooms, etc., in which to carry on his work, was strongly opposed, by some on grounds of economy, but largely because he was an upholder of the usefulness and necessity of experiments upon animals. It was, however, eventually carried by a small majority (88 to 85), and in the same year the Royal Society awarded him a royal medal in recognition of his researches into the electrical phenomena exhibited by plants and the relations of minute organisms to disease, and of the services he had rendered to physiology and pathology. In 1885 the university of Oxford was asked to vote £500 a year for three years for the purposes of the laboratory, then approaching completion. This proposal was fought with the utmost bitterness by Sanderson's opponents, the anti-vivisectionists including E.A. Freeman, John Ruskin and Bishop Mackarness of Oxford. Ultimately the money was granted by 412 to 244 votes. In 1895 Sanderson was appointed regius professor of medicine at Oxford, resigning the post in 1904; in 1899 he was created a baronet. His attainments, both in biology and medicine, brought him many honours.
He was Croonian lecturer to the Royal Society in 1867 and 1877 and to the Royal College of Physicians in 1891; gave the Harveian oration before the College of Physicians in 1878; acted as president of the British Association at Nottingham in 1893; and served on three royal commissions - Hospitals (1883), Tuberculosis, Meat and Milk (1890), and University for London (1892). He died at Oxford on the 23rd of November 1905.