Thomas Gaisford was born on December 22, 1779 at Iford Manor, Wiltshire, the eldest son of John Gaisford and Elizabeth Bushell. Educated at Hyde Abbey School, Winchester under the Rev. Charles Richards, he entered the University of Oxford as a commoner of Christ Church in October 1797. Elected student in December 1800 by the then Dean, Dr. Cyril Jackson, he took the degrees of BA in 1801 and MA in 1804. After acting as tutor of the college and examiner, 1809-1811, he was appointed Regius Professor of Greek on February 29, 1812 when his predecessor was made Bishop of Oxford.
In 1815 he was presented by his college to the living of Westwell, in Oxfordshire, which he held util 1847. In 1829 he was offered the bishopric of Oxford, but refused it. The same year he was collated to a stall at Durham Cathedral, which in 1831 he exchanged for the deanary of Christ Church which he held until his death.
As curator of the Bodleian and principal delegate of the Oxford University Press, Gaisford was instrumental in securing the co-operation of distinguished European scholars as collators, notably Bekker and Dindorf. Among his numerous contributions to Greek literature may be mentioned, Hephaestion’s Encheiridion (1810); Poëtae Graeci minores (1814-1820); Stobaeus’ Florilegium (1822); Herodotus, with variorum notes (1824); Suidas’ Lexicon (1834); Etymologicon magnum (I848). Eusebius’s Praeparatio (1843) and Demonstratio evangelica (1852). In 1856 the Gaisford prizes, for Greek composition, were founded at Oxford to perpetuate his memory.
In his personal life Thomas married Helen Margaret Douglas, she was the niece of Bishop Van Mildert. The couple had four sons and two daughter. Tradgedy struck on June 23, 1843 when second son, William, and Richard Phillimore, seventh son of Joseph Phillimore Regius Professor of Civil Law were drowned in the Thames at Sandford Weir. Today an Obelisk marks the spot, inscribed:
“To William Gaisford, a member of this House, who on 23rd June 1843 rashly entered the river at the Sandford weir when it was swollen by excessive rain and was sucked down into its depths. His age was 21 years 4 months 19 days. He was a much loved young man of unblemished character and his comrades and friends have erected this monument to him in mourning and deep grief. “
“Nearby is buried Richard Phillimore, seventh son of Joseph Phillimore Regius Professor of Civil Law, a member of this House who, when vainly attempting to rescue his friend struggling in the treacherous waters of the river, was caught up in the whirlpools and perished on 23rd June 1843 before he had reached his twentieth birthday. We mourn him as a young man who stood out among those of his own age for his intellectual gifts, his character, his piety, and his breadth of learning. His friends and colleagues have erected this stone to his memory in the deepest grief.”
After the death of his first wife, Thomas married Catherine Jenkyns, sister of Dr. Jenkyns of Balliol College. Thomas Gaisford died at Christ Church, Oxford on June 2, 1855 and was buried in the nave of the cathedral on June 9, 1855.