Peter Thornton (1925-2007) was an eminent English historian of interior design, a museum curator, and the author of several excellent and highly influential books on design history. (See my review of his book over on the blog.)
In the early 1950s, Thornton served as joint secretary of the National Art Collections Fund. In the 1960s, he spearheaded an innovative project aimed at preserving sound recordings of historic musical instruments. During this period, he developed a fascination with textiles and upholstery, and became one of the first historians to devote serious study to the role of textiles and upholstery in the domestic interior.
In the 1960s, Thornton designed a home for himself and his family in Cork. He also rebuilt an old farmhouse in Cork, doing most of the work himself.
Working for the V&A Museum in the 1960s and 1970s, Thornton oversaw the restoration and appointment of several historic properties in and around London: Osterley Park, the estate of Elizabeth I's financial adviser Thomas Gresham; Ham House, the Stuart residence on the Thames; and Apsely House, the mansion of the first Duke of Wellington.
As a historian, Thornton was interested in the social function of interior spaces, and placed particular emphasis on the role of textiles. He consulted archival sources and estate inventories in order to reproduce the seventeenth-century interiors of Ham House as faithfully as possible.
In 1984, the same year he published Authentic Decor, Thornton left his job at the V&A to become the curator of Sir John Hoane's museum at Holborn. After his retirement in 1995, he worked on and off as a consultant for the decoration of period rooms. He died in 2007 at the age of 81.
For a more detailed biography, from which I gathered this information, see his obituary in the Telegraph.
And now that you know something about Peter Thornton, check out my series of essays inspired by his book: