James Bradley was born in 1693 at Sherbourn in Gloucestershire, and educated at the Northleach Grammar School. On 15 March 1711 he matriculated as a commoner of Balliol College, Oxford (BA 1714, MA 1717, DD by diploma 1742). From about 1715 his uncle, the Rev. James Pound (d 1724), himself a considerable astronomer, fostered Bradley's scientific tastes at Wanstead in Essex, where his earliest observations were made. He became an FRS in 1718, was ordained in 1719, and was elected Savilian Professor of Astronomy in 1721, a post which he held until his death, combining with it the Readership of Experimental Philosophy from 1729 to 1760. In 1732 he came to live at Oxford, but in 1742 being made Astronomer Royal he removed to Greenwich, still keeping up constant communication with Oxford, Wanstead and the Earl of Macclesfield's observatory at Shirburn Castle. In 1744 he married Miss Susannah Peach, by whom he had a daughter. He died on 13 July 1762.
His two chief discoveries, Aberration and Nutation, were made, after long preliminary experiments, at the end of 1728 and in 1747 respectively; and throughout his life he was an assiduous observer and calculator. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.