Thompson Cooper

Thompson Cooper (8 January 1837, Cambridge – 5 March 1904, London) was an English journalist, man of letters, and compiler of reference works. He became a specialist in biographical information, and is noted as the most prolific contributor to the Victorian era Dictionary of National Biography, for which he wrote 1423 entries.[1]


Thompson Cooper was the son of Charles Henry Cooper, a Cambridge solicitor and antiquarian. Educated privately in Cambridge, Cooper was nominally articled to his father, and joined him in his antiquarian pursuits.[2] He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries aged 23, and at some point converted to Roman Catholicism.[2]

As a young man, he was a parliamentary reporter, and developed an interest in shorthand. His Parliamentary Short-Hand was published in 1858. Cooper became sub-editor on the Daily Telegraph in 1861, and the paper's parliamentary reporter in 1862. In 1866 he began a long connection with The Times: he was the paper's parliamentary reporter 1866–1886, its summary-writer for the House of Commons 1886–98, and from 1898 its summary-writer for the House of Lords.[2]

Reference worksEdit

With his father Charles Henry Cooper he compiled Athenae Cantabrigienses, a biographical work covering alumni of the University of Cambridge.

The Register and Magazine of Biography (1869) was a short-lived periodical venture for John Gough Nichols, covering contemporary biography only, and lasting six months.[3] A New Biographical Dictionary appeared in 1873, and was subsequently developed under various titles.[4]

Men of Mark: A Gallery of Contemporary Portraits was a series of photographic portraits, accompanied by short biographies from Cooper.[5] It was published from 1876 to 1883.

Cooper therefore brought considerable experience to the DNB when it launched in the 1880s.[1] He played a general editorial role as "compiler of the lists of names to be treated under B and future letters", but his speciality as a contributor was "Roman Catholic divines and writers".[6] He was also a prolific contributor to the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

He was buried in Norwood Cemetery.[7]


  1. ^ a b; other sources say 1422.
  2. ^ a b c A. A. Brodribb, ‘Cooper, Thompson (1837–1904)’, rev. G. Martin Murphy, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 11 October 2008
  3. ^ Julian Pooley, The Nichols Archive Project and its Value for Leicester Historians (PDF), p. 9.
  4. ^ Men of the Time: a Dictionary of Contemporaries; Biographical Dictionary. Containing Concise Notices (upwards of 15,000) of Eminent Persons of all Ages and Countries.
  5. ^ Quicklist of Cartoons
  6. ^ Sidney Lee, 'Statistical Account' of the DNB, 1900, p. lxiii
  7. ^ "The Late Mr. Thompson Cooper". The Times (37338). London. 10 March 1904. p. 9; col F. Retrieved 11 October 2008.