Edward Thring was born at Alford, Somerset, the son of the rector, Rev. John Gale Dalton Thring and Sarah née Jenkyns. He was brother of Theodore Thring (1816-1891), Henry, Lord Thring, a noted jurist and Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury, hymn writer Godfrey Thring, and John Charles Thring, a master at Uppingham School and deviser of the Uppingham Rules; he also had two sisters. The family is commemorated in Alford Church by carved choir seats in the chancel and two memorial windows.
Thring was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, where he obtained a Fellowship in 1844. He was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1846 and served in various curacies until in 1853 he began his true life work by an appointment to the headmastership of Uppingham School.
Thring is Uppingham's best-known headmaster, remaining in the post until 1887. He raised the school to a high state of efficiency, and stamped it with the qualities of his own strong personality, as did Thomas Arnold at Rugby. He made many innovative changes to the school's curriculum which were later adopted in other English schools. During his headship the school was forced to move temporarily to Borth in Wales after an outbreak of typhoid ravaged the student body.
He was an original thinker and writer on education and various educational works.
Thring was the headmaster of Uppingham between 1853 and 1887; here he turned a poor provincial grammar school of twenty-five boys into a top of the line public school within ten years. Thring insisted on confining the school to around 300 boys to maintain a small, "tight-knit" Christian community. Thring believed that every boy was good for something. His early experience teaching Gloucester National elementary schools had convinced him that "to teach the slow and ignorant with success is the only test of proficiency and intellectual power." In addition to being a believer in teaching the classics, Thring broadened the overall curriculum at Uppingham by ensuring that the moral, aesthetic, and physical aspects meet the needs of the students. Although Uppingham was a huge achievement in itself, Thring's achievements extended beyond Uppingham as he was cofounder of the Headmasters' Conference (HMC), the educational House of the Lords, and he produced his Theory and Practice of Teaching.
- John Skrine, Edward Thring: Maker of Uppingham School, Headmaster 1853-1887, London: Routledge, 2007. (ISBN 978-0415073103).
- Nigel Richardson, Typhoid in Uppingham: Analysis of a Victorian Town and School in Crisis, 1875-77, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2009. (ISBN 978-1-85196-991-3).
- Nigel Richardson, Thring of Uppingham: Victorian Educator, Buckingham: The University of Buckingham Press, 2014. (ISBN 978-1-908684-0-59).
- Malcolm Tozer, Physical Education at Thring's Uppingham, Uppingham: Uppingham School, 1976. (ISBN B000XZ39VY).
- Malcolm Tozer, Manliness: the Evolution of a Victorian Ideal, Leicester: Leicester University, 1978. (uk.bl.ethos.475463 ).
- Malcolm Tozer, The Ideal of Manliness: The Legacy of Thring's Uppingham, Truro: Sunnyrest Books, 2015. (ISBN 978-1-326-41574-7, hardback; ISBN 978-1-329-54273-0, paperback).
Edward Thring's words: "Honour the work and the work will honour you" inspired the adoption of the Melbourne High School (Victoria)'s school motto Honour the work. The school song is entitled Honour the Work.
- Family tree in Wells Cathedral: Its Monumental Inscriptions and Heraldry by Jewers Arthur John
- "Thring, Edward (THRN841E)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Chisholm 1911.
- Hogg, Gordon. "The Educational World of Edward Thring/The Rise of the Modern Educational System (Book)." Victorian Studies 32.4 (1989): 592. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. Oct. 3, 2012.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Thring, Edward". Encyclopædia Britannica 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- "Thring, Edward". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Leinster-Mackay, Donald P. "Thring, Edward (1821–1887)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27389. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
- Edward Thring, The Theory and Practice of Teaching, 1883.