Gillian Beer was born in January 1935 in Surrey. She read English at St Anne's College, Oxford.
She has published several works of literary criticism and academic writings, including Darwin's Plots in 1983, George Eliot in 1986 and Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground in 1996.
She is King Edward VII Professor Emeritus at the University of Cambridge and former President of Clare Hall College. She was made a Dame in 1998.
She was a judge for the 1993 Booker Prize and later Chair of the judges for the 1997 Booker Prize.