John D. Anderson, Jr. attended the University of Florida, graduating in 1959 with high honors and a Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering degree. From 1959 to 1962 he was a lieutenant and task scientist at the Aerospace Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. From 1962 to 1966 he attended The Ohio State University, graduating with a PhD in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. In 1966 he joined the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory as Chief of the Hypersonics Group. In 1973 he became Chairman of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, and from 1980 to his retirement in 1999 he was Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Maryland. In 1982 he was designated a Distinguished Scholar/Teacher by the university. During 1986-1987, while on sabbatical from the university, Dr. Anderson occupied the Charles Lindbergh Chair at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to his appointment in aerospace engineering, in 1993 he was elected to the faculty of the Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science at Maryland, and an affiliate faculty member of the Department of History. Since 1999, he is Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering, and Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering at Maryland. Also since 1999, he is Curator of Aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
He is the author of 12 books in aeronautical engineering and the history of aerodynamics, and the author of more than 120 papers on radiative gas dynamics, entry aerothermodynamics, gas dynamic and chemical lasers, computational fluid dynamics, applied aerodynamics, hypersonic flow, and the history of aeronautical engineering and aerodynamics.
He is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and member of the National Academy of Engineering.