Elrington, Thomas (1760–1835), provost of TCD and Church of Ireland bishop, was born 18 December 1760 near Dublin, only child of Richard Elrington and Catherine Elrington. Educated at TCD, he entered in 1775, becoming scholar in 1778. He had a brilliant undergraduate career, especially in mathematics, and in 1781 was elected a fellow of TCD at the age of 20, after a four-day public examination. He was elected MRIA (1785).
In 1790 he was appointed Lord Donegall lecturer in mathematics, and in 1794 he became the first Donnellan divinity lecturer. In a series of sermons (published in 1796), he argued that the proof of Christianity could be derived from the miracles recorded in the New Testament. In 1795 he became Archbishop King lecturer in divinity, and succeeded to a senior fellowship. Having married, in February 1799 he requested the chief secretary, Viscount Castlereagh (qv), for permission to break the rule of celibacy enforced on senior fellows, and was successful. Switching disciplines the same year he became Erasmus Smith professor of natural philosophy.
During the passing of the act of union (1799–1800) he was one of only five college fellows to support the measure. Appointed rector of Ardtrea, in the diocese of Armagh, by the college in 1806, he resigned in December 1811 when the lord lieutenant, the duke of Richmond (qv), chose him to be provost of TCD. He served on many public boards and charities, and was responsible for expelling the College Historical Society from the college in 1815 after a lengthy dispute. He retired as provost in September 1820, and was nominated bishop of Limerick, being consecrated 8 October. Transferred to the bishopric of Leighlin and Ferns on 21 December 1822, he remained there until his death.
A noted polemicist as well as academic, he published many controversial tracts in his lifetime – twenty-nine in all, including a 1793 attack on the pastoral instruction by Archbishop Troy (qv) the previous year, and numerous defences of the tithe system, the most aggressive in 1822. He also edited three works for the university, including Locke's Essay on government (1798), Juvenalis et Persius (1808), and perhaps his most important intellectual contribution, Euclid's elements, the first six books (1788), which was reprinted many times. Although highly intelligent, he was perhaps too narrow-minded and absolute in his beliefs to be considered wise. Valentine Lawless (qv), 2nd Baron Cloncurry, was his student, and found him highly learned but obnoxious.
He died 12 July 1835 in Liverpool, of paralysis, said to have been induced by sea-sickness, during a journey to London. He was interred at TCD chapel, and a monument was erected in his honour in the cathedral of Ferns. He is commemorated in Trinity by the Elrington prize, an award for the best essay by a senior freshman in the school of Hebrew, biblical, and theological studies. He married (c.1786) Charlotte Preston, daughter of the Rev. Plunket Preston, rector in Co. Limerick. They had two sons and an unknown number of daughters. His eldest son, Charles Richard Elrington (qv), was also FTCD, and regius professor of divinity in the college.