William Hepworth Thompson Biography

William Hepworth Thompson (27 March 1810 – 1 October 1886) was an English classical scholar and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Thompson was born at York and was privately educated in Buckinghamshire before entering Trinity College, Cambridge in 1828. Graduating BA as 4th classic in 1832, he became a fellow of Trinity in 1834. In 1853 he was appointed Professor of Greek (to which a canonry in Ely Cathedral was then for the first time attached), and in 1866 Master of Trinity College. Also in 1866, he married Frances Elizabeth, daughter of William Selwyn, widow of George Peacock. With the exception of the year 1836, when he acted as headmaster of a newly established school in Leicester, his life was divided between Cambridge and Ely. Thompson died in Cambridge, at the Master's Lodge, twenty years after being appointed Master.

Thompson had succeeded William Whewell as Master and proved a worthy successor; the twenty years of his mastership were years of progress, and he himself took an active part in the abolition of tests (in particular the compulsory religious tests) and the reform of university studies and of the college statutes.

The efforts of men such as Thompson were fundamental in transforming Trinity College and indeed Cambridge University into truly meritocratic institutions.