He was born in Workington and brought up in Carlisle. During the World War II, he left Oxford University for Bletchley Park, to help crack German codes with a small group of mathematicians which included Alan Turing. A teacher at Westminster School, London and then The Royal Military College of Science. In 1954 he wrote three hugely influential papers in the Journal of the London Mathematical Society, laying the foundations of inverse semigroup theory. Before Gordon and Al Clifford's book, The algebraic theory of semigroups (Vol 1 1961) (Vol 2 1967) and the Russian, E S Lyapin's, Semigroups (1960) there was no systematic treatment of semigroups. The algebraic theory of semigroups was hailed as an excellent achievement which greatly influenced the future development of the subject. In 1963, Gordon Bamford Preston moved to Australia to take up chair of mathematics at Monash University outside Melbourne.