Tyson was born the son of Edward Tyson at Clevedon, in Somerset. He obtained a BA from Oxford in 1670, a MA from Oxford in 1673, and a MD from Cambridge in 1677. In 1684 he was appointed physician and governor to the Bethlem Hospital in London (the first mental hospital in Britain, second in Europe). He is credited with changing the hospital from a zoo of sorts to a place intended to help the inmates. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1679. 
In 1680, he studied a porpoise and established that porpoises are mammals. In 1698, he dissected a chimpanzee and the result was the book, ''Orang-Outang, sive Homo Sylvestris: or, the Anatomy of a Pygmie Compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape, and a Man''. In this book he came to the conclusion that the chimpanzee has more in common with man than with monkeys, particularly with respect to the brain. This work was republished in 1894, with an introduction by Bertram C. A. Windle that includes a short biography of Tyson.
- Newman C (October 1975). "Edward Tyson". Br Med J 4 (5988): 96–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.4.5988.96. PMC 1674957. PMID 1102061.
- "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
- John Gribbin The Scientists (2002)
- Dr Robert A. Hatch - University of Florida The Scientific Revolution