Herbert Hall Turner was educated at Clifton College and Trinity College, Cambridge., In 1884 he accepted the post of Chief Assistant at Greenwich Observatory and stayed there for nine years. In 1893 he became Savilian Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory at Oxford University, a post he held for 37 years until his sudden death in 1930.
He was one of the observers in the Eclipse Expeditions of 1886 and 1887. In seismology, he is credited with the discovery of deep focus earthquakes. He is also credited with coining the word Parsec.