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 works

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. 1.0 1.1; other sources say 1422.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 A. A. Brodribb, ‘Cooper, Thompson (1837–1904)’, rev. G. Martin Murphy, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 11 Oct 2008
  3. (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.
  6. Sidney Lee, 'Statistical Account' of the DNB, 1900, p. lxiii
  7. "The Late Mr. Thompson Cooper (transcription)". London: The Times. March 10, 1904; Issue 37338. p. 9; col F. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
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