Thomas Arnold (June 13, 1795 – June 12, 1842) was a famous schoolmaster and historian, head of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841.
Arnold was born on the Isle of Wight, the son of William Arnold, an inland revenue officer, and his wife Martha de la Field. He was educated at Winchester and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There he excelled at Classics and was made a fellow of Oriel in 1815. His appointment to the headship of Rugby, a famous public school, after some years as a tutor, turned the school's fortunes around, and his force of character and religious zeal enabled him to turn it into a model followed by the other public schools, exercising an unprecedented influence on the educational system of the country. He is portrayed as a leading character in the novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays. He was involved in many controversies, educational and religious. As a churchman he was a decided Erastian, and strongly opposed to the High Church party. In 1841, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford. He was one of the Eminent Victorians in Lytton Strachey's book of that name, and his Life was written in 1844 by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, who had been one of his pupils.
His chief literary works are his unfinished History of Rome (three volumes 1838-42), and his Lectures on Modern History. He died suddenly of angina pectoris in the midst of his growing influence. His life, by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, is one of the best works of its class in the language.
He married Mary Penrose, daughter of the Rev. John Penrose of Penryn, Cornwall. They had three daughters and four sons, including the poet Matthew Arnold, the literary scholar Tom, and the author William Delafield Arnold. Thomas the Younger's daughter Mary Augusta Arnold, became a famous novelist under her married name of Mrs Humphry Ward, whilst Tom's other daughter married Leonard Huxley (writer), the son of Thomas Huxley and their sons were Julian and Aldous Huxley.
A more recent public school headmaster, Michael McCrum of Tonbridge and Eton in the 1960s through 1980s, and also a churchman and Oxbridge academic (Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Vice-Chancellor), wrote a biography and reappraisal of Arnold in 1991. McCrum was steeped in the significance of Rugby and of public schools; he too had briefly been a master at Rugby and was married to the daughter of another former headmaster, master of mens parts he like them good and proper Sir Arthur fforde.