Anderson was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and grew up in Urbana, Illinois. His father, Harry Warren Anderson, was a professor of plant pathology at the University of Illinois at Urbana; his maternal grandfather was a mathematician at Wabash College, where Anderson's father studied; and his maternal uncle was a Rhodes Scholar who became a professor of English, also at Wabash College. He graduated from University Laboratory High School in Urbana in 1940. Under the encouragement of a math teacher by the name of Miles Hartley, Anderson enrolled at Harvard University to study under a fully-funded scholarship. He concentrated in "Electronic Physics" and completed his B.S. in 1943, after which he was drafted into the war effort and built antennas at the Naval Research Laboratory until the end of the Second World War in 1945. As an undergraduate, his close associates included particle-nuclear physicist H. Pierre Noyes, philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn and molecular physicist Henry Silsbee. After the war, Anderson returned to Harvard to pursue graduate studies in physics under the mentorship of John Hasbrouck van Vleck; he received his Ph.D. in 1949 after completing a doctoral dissertation titled "The theory of pressure broadening of spectral lines in the microwave and infrared regions."
Anderson spent a year as Lecturer in Cambridge in 1961–1962, and recalled that having Brian Josephson in a class was "a disconcerting experience for a lecturer, I can assure you, because everything had to be right or he would come up and explain it to me after class." Anderson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963.
Anderson's writings included Concepts in Solids, Basic Notions of Condensed Matter Physics and The Theory of Superconductivity in the High-Tc Cuprates. Anderson served on the board of advisors of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government.
In response to the discovery of high-temperature superconductors in 1980s, Anderson proposed Resonating valence bond (RVB) theory to explain the phenomenon. While many found the idea unconvincing, RVB theory proved instrumental in the study of spin liquids.
Anderson also made conceptual contributions to the philosophy of science through his explication of emergent phenomena, which became an inspiration for the science of complex systems. In 1972 he wrote an article called "More is Different" in which he emphasized the limitations of reductionism and the existence of hierarchical levels of science, each of which requires its own fundamental principles for advancement.
In 1984 he participated in the founding workshops of the Santa Fe Institute, a multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to the science of complex systems. Anderson also co-chaired the institute's 1987 conference on economics with Kenneth Arrow and W. Brian Arthur, and participated in its 2007 workshop on models of emergent behavior in complex systems.
A 2006 statistical analysis of scientific research papers by José Soler, comparing the number of references in a paper to the number of citations, declared Anderson to be the "most creative" amongst ten most cited physicists in the world. In 2021 Oxford University Press published the biography A Mind over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many by Andrew Zangwill.
Anderson was an atheist and was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto. Anderson was also interested in Japanese culture, living there for a time and becoming a 1st Dan master of the board game Go. The Nihon Ki-in awarded him a lifetime achievement award in 2007, and Anderson joked that there were only four people in Japan who could beat him.
Anderson, Philip W. (1954). Notes on theory of magnetism. Tokyo: University of Tokyo. OCLC 782103851.
Anderson, Philip W. (1997) . Concepts in solids: lectures on the theory of solids. Singapore River Edge, New Jersey: World Scientific. ISBN 9789810232313.
Anderson, Philip W. (1997) . Basic notions of condensed matter physics. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 9780201328301.
Anderson, Philip W.; Arrow, Kenneth J.; Pines, David, eds. (1988). The economy as an evolving complex system: the proceedings of the Evolutionary Paths of the Global Economy Workshop, held September, 1987 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Redwood City, California: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. ISBN 9780201156850.
Anderson, Philip W. (2004) . A career in theoretical physics. World Scientific Series in 20th Century Physics, volume 35. Singapore Hackensack, New Jersey: World Scientific Pub. Co. ISBN 9789812567154.
Anderson, Philip W. (1997). The theory of superconductivity in the high-TC cuprates. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691043654.
Anderson, Philip W. (2011). More and different: notes from a thoughtful curmudgeon. Singapore Hackensack, New Jersey: World Scientific. ISBN 9789814350143.
Anderson, Philip W. (March 1, 1958). "Absence of diffusion in certain random lattices". Physical Review. 109 (5): 1492–1505. Bibcode:1958PhRv..109.1492A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.109.1492. Pdf.
Anderson, Philip W. (April 1, 1963). "Plasmons, gauge invariance, and mass". Physical Review. 130 (1): 439–442. Bibcode:1963PhRv..130..439A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.130.439. Pdf.
Anderson, Philip W. (August 4, 1972). "More is different". Science. 177 (4047): 393–396. Bibcode:1972Sci...177..393A. doi:10.1126/science.177.4047.393. JSTOR 1734697. PMID17796623. Pdf.
Anderson, Philip W. (March 6, 1987). "The resonating valence bond state in La2CuO4 and superconductivity". Science. 235 (4793): 1196–1198. Bibcode:1987Sci...235.1196A. doi:10.1126/science.235.4793.1196. JSTOR 1698247. PMID17818979. S2CID 28146486. Pdf.
Anderson, Philip W. (April 3, 1997). "Mind over matter: Review of The Large, the Small and the Human Mind by Roger Penrose". Nature. 386 (6624): 456. Bibcode:1997Natur.386..456A. doi:10.1038/386456c0. S2CID 4336986.
Anderson, Philip W. (October 1997). "When the electron falls apart". Physics Today. 50 (10): 42–49. Bibcode:1997PhT....50j..42A. doi:10.1063/1.881959.
Anderson, Philip W. (July 8, 1999). "Computing: solving problems in finite time". Nature. 400 (6740): 115. Bibcode:1999Natur.400..115A. doi:10.1038/22001. PMID10408432.
Anderson, Philip W. (February 2000). "Brainwashed by Feynman?". Physics Today. 53 (2): 11–14. Bibcode:2000PhT....53b..11A. doi:10.1063/1.882955. Pdf.
Anderson, Philip W. (September 27, 2005). "Thinking big". Nature. 437 (7059): 625–626. Bibcode:2005Natur.437..625A. doi:10.1038/437625a. PMID16193027. S2CID 4416556.
Anderson, Philip W. (September 1, 2007). "Twenty years of talking past each other: the theory of high TC". Physica C. 460–462 (Part 1): 3–6. Bibcode:2007PhyC..460....3A. doi:10.1016/j.physc.2007.03.261.
^ ab"Professor Philip Anderson ForMemRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on November 14, 2015.
^"APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
^Clason, Lauren. "Philip W. Anderson". National Science & Technology Medals Foundation. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
^"Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
^Anderson, Philip W. (2011). "Imaginary Friend, Who Art in Heaven". More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon. World Scientific. p. 177. ISBN 9789814350129. We atheists can, as he does, argue that, with the modern revolution in attitudes toward homosexuals, we have become the only group that may not reveal itself in normal social discourse.
^"Philip W. Anderson". Edge. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
^Banks, Michael (March 30, 2020). "Condensed-matter physics pioneer Philip Anderson dies aged 96". PhysicsWorld.com.
^Veale, Scott (March 30, 2020). "Philip W. Anderson, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Is Dead at 96". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
^Anderson., Philip W; Arrow, Kenneth Joseph; Pines, David; Santa Fe Institute (January 1, 1988). The Economy as an Evolving Complex System: The Proceedings of the .ISBN 9780201156850. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
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Philip W. Anderson on Nobelprize.org including the Nobel Lecture, December 8, 1977 Local Moments and Localized States
Philip Warren Anderson
Video clip of Philip Anderson speaking at the International Conference on Complex Systems, Hosted by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI)
Oral History interview transcript for Philip W. Anderson on 10 May 1988, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
Oral History interview transcript for Philip W. Anderson on 15 and 29 October and 5 November 1999, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session I
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 8 March 2002, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session II
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 22 March 2002, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session III
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 29 May 2002, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session IV
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 30 March 1999, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session I
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 30 May 1999, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session II
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 23 November 1999, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session III
Oral History interview transcript with Philip W. Anderson on 29 June 2000, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives - Session IV