Thirkill spent his whole career at Clare College, Cambridge. After completing his degree he was appointed Fellow in 1910; and Demonstrator in Experimental Physics in 1912. He was an officer with the Royal Engineers during World War One, and won the Military Cross during the East African Campaign. On his return he was appointed Lecturer in Experimental Physics in 1918. He was Tutor at Clare from 1920 to 1939; President from 1920 to 1939; and its Master from 1939 to 1958; and Fellow again from 1959 until his death. He was a Member of Council of Senate from 1927 to 1956; Vice-Chancellor from 1945 to 1947; and Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1947 to 1955.. He was aldo President of Cambridge University Cricket Club between 1947 and 1965.
- Sir Henry Thirkill. The Times (London, England), Saturday, 27 March 1971; pg. 14; Issue 58132
- "Thirkill, Henry". Who Was Who. ukwhoswho.com. 1920–2016 (July 2018 online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. Retrieved 30 July 2018. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- "CUCC Presidents".
- Memorial service. The Times (London, England), Monday, 24 May 1971; pg. 14; Issue 58180
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