Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in 1832 in Cheshire, England, third of eleven children of the curate of the parish. As a child Dodgson "'invented strange diversions for himself' and made pets of 'odd and unlikely animals'." He loved reading from an early age, including classics such as Pilgrim's Progress, which he read at age seven.
As a boy Dodgson developed a stammer that remained with him throughout his adult life. He was always aware of it, but it didn't stop him from traveling, teaching, and speaking a great deal. Dodgson's brilliance as a mathematician became evident during his student years at Oxford University. It won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship, which he held for twenty-six years, teaching at Oxford and becoming known for explaining difficult mathematical concepts in terms that were easy to understand.
Early on in his career he became fascinated with photography, training himself to take skilled, artistic photographs. Over his lifetime he took many photographs of friends, fans, and colleagues, including children, painters, poets, and important social figures.
By 1854 Dodgson's poetry and short stories began gaining some success. He first used his famous pseudonym Lewis Carroll in 1856, attached to a small romantic poem titled, "Solitude," which appeared in the magazine Train. That same year Dodgson met the Liddell family and became a close friend, particularly with the three young daughters Ina, Alice, and Edith. In 1862 on a picnic Dodgson hosted for the girls, he began telling them the story that eventually became his world famous book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice Liddell, Dodgson's inspiration for Alice, prevailed upon him to write it down, and after doing so, Dodgson realized its potential for publication. The publishers at Macmillan jumped on it, publishing it to instant success in 1865.
Dodgson continued teaching for sixteen years, keeping his academic life as a mathematician separate from his author's life as Lewis Carroll. Throughout his life Dodgson published several mathematical papers – which to this day reveal his brilliance in the field of mathematics – always using his real name. But he published all his poetry and imaginative prose as Lewis Carroll, developing a detailed persona that became part of the Alice phenomenon. He found great joy in traveling as Lewis Carroll, doing public readings, and talking with people – he was a talented mimic and storyteller, brilliant especially at fascinating children.
Dodgson's creative mind led him to invent many trinkets and gadgets. To list only a few, he created a traveling chessboard, several card games, an early form of what later became Scrabble, and a way to help bedridden invalids read a book placed sideways. Another was the Wonderland Postage Stamp Case, and still another was a gadget allowing people to write in bed in the dark without taking their hands out from under the blankets.
Dodgson also enjoyed writing letters, especially to his young fans. He usually wrote in a distinctive purple ink. He often included puzzles and puns; sometimes the entire letter would be in verse or written backwards so that it had to be read with a mirror. Dodgson himself admitted that he wrote "wheelbarrows full almost" of correspondence.
Although Dodgson made lasting friendships with many of his young fans and corresponded with several, he never married or had children of his own. In January 1898 he caught violent pneumonia and died at his family home of The Chesnuts, Guildford, and was buried in the nearby cemetery.