Bruce E. Anderson, 79, an Army ordnance and research engineer, died of cancer Thursday at Doctors Hospital.

He had worked on the research and development of military propellants and explosives for the Army Ordnance Corps form 1926 until retiring in 1961.

Since leaving governments service, Mr. Anderson had been a consultant in the Washington office of the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute.

He also had been an editor of the section on propellants and explosives of the publication "Chemical Abstracts."

Born in Creede, Colo., Mr. Anderson was a graduate of Colorado College. He later took graduate work in organic chemistry at George Washington University.

He came here in 1924 and worked for the Bureau of Public Roads and National Bureau of Standards before joining the Army Ordnance Corps.

In 1965, he contributed information on gun power, propellants and nitroglycerin for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

An enthusiastic tennis player until recent years, Mr. Anderson at one time had coached the Army tennis team in interservice competitions.

A former member of the American Chemical Society, he belonged to the Philosophical Society of Washington, the American Defense Preparedness Association and the International Geographis Society.

And active member of Wesley United Methodist Church, he had served on the administrative board and the board of trustees.

He is also survived by his wife , Marguerite Thompson Anderson, of the home in Silver Spring; two sons, Philip, of New York City, and Newell, of Kensington; a daughter, Joyce Gordon, of Los Angeles, and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to Wesley United Methodist Church or the American Cancer Society.