Thomas Antisell was born in Dublin Ireland in 1817, where he was educated as a physician and a chemist. He immigrated to New York City in November, 1848 and opened a medical office and a chemistry laboratory. While living in New York, he often left to lecture at Berkshire Medical Institution and Vermont Medical College. In 1854 he entered the government as a geologist on Lieutenant John G. Parke's Pacific railroad survey and made a reconnaissance of parts of California and Arizona. Tracings, notes and clippings in the collection relating to California and Sierra Nevada may be from this period of Antisell's career. When the survey was completed, Antisell moved to Washington, D.C. where he was chief examiner in the U.S. Patent Office and had the sole charge of chemical inventions. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas Antisell entered the Union army as a Brigade Surgeon. He not only served in the field, but was surgeon in charge at Harewood, a large Civil War Hospital. After the war, Antisell went to the Department of Agriculture, where he analyzed agricultural specimens and minerals, investigated cancellation inks for the Post Office Department and building stone for the Treasury Department. At this period the Japanese were developing the resources and industries of their country and their government asked Secretary of Agriculture Horace Capron to provide technical assistance. In 1871 Capron went to Japan taking with him Antisell, whowas involved in the development of inks for paper currency, dextrin for the post office and other matters. He left Japan only reluctantly because his wife's health was failing. Antisell returned to Washington, D.C. and reentered the Patent Office as examiner until his retirement in 1891. Antisell died in 1893, age 76, and was buried in Congressional Cemetery.
In addition to acting as chemist for the Department of Agriculture and the Patent Office, Antisell taught at Georgetown University from 1858 to 1869 and 1880 to 1882. He handled a variety of subjects including hygiene, military surgery, physiology, pathology, chemistry (1858-63, 1880-82), and physiological chemistry (1866-69). He also taugh chemistry at the University of Maryland from 1869 to 1870. He was offered the presidency of Franklin and Marshall in the mid-1860's and the University of Cairo in the mid-1870's.