Charles Mills Gayley was born in Shanghai, China, on 22 February 1858. The son of Irish-American missionaries, he was educated in London and Ireland, and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan with his great-uncle in 1875, where he attended the University of Michigan (BA 1878). Two years after graduating he returned to his alma mater to teach Latin. He subsequently took a leave of absence to pursue postgraduate study for a year at German universities, where he acquired an affinity for the kulturhistorische method that was becoming increasingly popular in Germany at the time. His training culminated in an interest in applying an understanding of historical and cultural trends to literary analysis. Upon his return to Michigan, Gayley was charged with improving the university's ailing freshman and sophomore English classes. His success at this task prompted an offer in 1889 from the University of California at Berkeley to become the head of its English department. Under his guidance, Berkeley had one of the leading English departments in the country. Gayley retired in 1923, and died on 25 July 1932 in Berkeley, California.
From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.