Richard was born on 10 October 1845 in Carmarthenshire in south Wales, the son of Timothy and Eleanor Richard, a devout Baptist farming family. Inspired by the Second Evangelical Awakening to become a missionary, Richard left teaching to enter Haverfordwest Theological College in 1865. There he dedicated himself to China, where he had an active role in relief operations during the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–1879, and was instrumental in promoting anti-foot binding and sexual equality in China.
Richard applied to the newly formed China Inland Mission, but Hudson Taylor considered that he would be of better service to the denominational Baptist missions. In 1869 the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) accepted Richard's application, and assigned him to Yantai (Chefoo), Shandong Province.
In 1897 Richard undertook a journey to India to discover the conditions of the Christian mission there. Travelling with a young missionary, Arthur Gostick Shorrock, they visited Sri Lanka, Madras, Agra, Benares, Delhi, Kolkata and finally Bombay.
In China Timothy Richard became a contributor to the monthly Wan Guo Gong Bao, or Review of the Times, which Young John Allen founded and edited from 1868 to 1907. This paper was "said...to have done more for reform than any other single agency in China." The Review attracted a wide and influential Chinese readership throughout its thirty-nine year run. One of the ways in which the Review appealed to a broad, scholarly audience was through its discussion of current events and economics. During the First Sino-Japanese War period of 1894-1895, essay titles included: “International Intercourse, by a descendent of Confucius,” “How to Enrich a Nation, by Dr. Joseph Edkins”, “The Prime Benefits of Christianity, by the Rev. Timothy Richard,” and “On the Suppression of Doubt and the Acceptance of Christ, by Sung Yuh-kwei.” The articles attributed practical applications to the Christian faith and portrayed Christianity as a useful concept for the Chinese, one that Allen and his contributors intended to portray on an equal level to concepts such as market economics and international law. The Qing reformer Kang Youwei once said of the publication: "I owe my conversion to reform chiefly on the writings of two missionaries, the Rev. Timothy Richard and the Rev. Dr. Young J. Allen."
On death in April 1919, Timothy was cremated, and his ashes placed in the columbarium of Golders Green Crematorium. The memorial tablet is largely in Chinese.
- Vincent Goossaert; David A. Palmer (15 April 2011). The Religious Question in Modern China. University of Chicago Press. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-0-226-30416-8. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Richard, Timothy, Forty-five Years in China: Reminiscences publ. Frederick A. Stokes (1916)
- Bohr, Paul R.; Famine in China and the Missionary: Timothy Richard as Relief Administrator and Advocate of National Reform, 1876-1884 (1972)
- Price Evans, Edward William; Welsh Biography Online
- Richard, Timothy (1916). Forty-Five Years in China, New York : Frederick A. Stokes
- Richard, Timothy (1907.). Conversion by the Million in China: Being Biographies and Articles, 2 vols; Volume One, Volume Two Shanghai, Christian Literature Society
- Mary Martin Richard ("Mrs. Timothy Richard, ") (1907). Paper on Chinese Music. Presbyterian Mission Press.
- Timothy Richard (1906). Calendar of the Gods in China. Methodist Publishing House.
- Timothy Richard (1905). Some Hints for Rising Statesman.
- Soothill, W. E.; Timothy Richard of China (1924)
- Stanley, Brian; The History of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1792-1992 (1992)
- Williamson, H. R.; British Baptists in China, 1845-1952 (1957)
- D.H. Chambers; "Tim China", 2011
- Reeve, B. (1911). Timothy Richard, D.D. : China missionary, statesman and reformer, London : S.W. Partridge & Co., Ltd.