Hinton was educated at King's College, Cambridge graduating in 1970, with a Bachelor of Arts in experimental psychology. He continued his study at the University of Edinburgh where he was awarded a PhD in artificial intelligence in 1977 for research supervised by Christopher Longuet-Higgins.
After his PhD he worked at the University of Sussex, the University of California, San Diego, Carnegie Mellon University. He was the founding director of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London, and is currently a professor in the computer science department at the University of Toronto. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning. He is the director of the program on "Neural Computation and Adaptive Perception" which is funded by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Hinton taught a free online course on Neural Networks on the education platform Coursera in 2012. Hinton joined Google in March 2013 when his company, DNNresearch Inc., was acquired. He is planning to "divide his time between his university research and his work at Google".
Hinton's research investigates ways of using neural networks for machine learning, memory, perception and symbol processing. He has authored or co-authored over 200 peer reviewed publications in these areas. He was one of the first researchers who demonstrated the use of generalized back-propagation algorithm for training multi-layer neural networks that has been widely used for practical applications. He co-invented Boltzmann machines with David Ackley and Terry Sejnowski His other contributions to neural network research include distributed representations, time delay neural network, mixtures of experts, Helmholtz machines and Product of Experts. In 2007 Hinton coauthored an unsupervised learning paper titled "Unsupervised learning of image transformations". An accessible introduction to Geoffrey Hinton's research can be found in his articles in Scientific American in September 1992 and October 1993.
Notable former PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from his group include Richard Zemel, Brendan Frey, Radford M. Neal, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, Ilya Sutskever, Yann LeCun and Zoubin Ghahramani.
Hinton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1998. Hinton was the first winner of the David E. Rumelhart Prize in 2001. His certificate of election for the Royal Society reads:
In 2001, Hinton was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. Hinton was the 2005 recipient of the IJCAI Award for Research Excellence lifetime-achievement award. He has also been awarded the 2011 Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. In 2013, Hinton was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Université de Sherbrooke.
In 2016, he was elected a foreign member of National Academy of Engineering "For contributions to the theory and practice of artificial neural networks and their application to speech recognition and computer vision". He also received the 2016 IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award.
He has won the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2016) in the Information and Communication Technologies category “for his pioneering and highly influential work” to endow machines with the ability to learn.
Hinton is the great-great-grandson both of logician George Boole whose work eventually became one of the foundations of modern computer science, and of surgeon and author James Hinton. His father is Howard Hinton. His middle name is from another relative, George Everest.