Theologian and archaeologist; b. Mixbury, Oxfordshire, England, 1811; d. Rome, 1879. Palmer was educated at Rugby School and Oxford University, and was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1832. From 1834 to 1843 he was tutor at Durham University and then classical examiner and tutor at Oxford, where he had been elected a fellow of his college, Magdalen. He was a high churchman, and in 1840 and again in 1842 went to Russia to learn about the Orthodox Church there and investigate the possibility of intercommunion between it and the Anglicans. This led to his best-known written work, Notes on a Visit to the Russian Church, edited by Cardinal Newman and published in 1882. Palmer was disturbed by certain aspects of the Church of England and for a time seriously considered joining the Orthodox, but in 1855 he was received into the Catholic Church and spent the rest of his life in Rome studying archaeology. Among his other published writings on ecclesiastical and archaeological topics were a Harmony of Anglican Doctrine with the Doctrine of the Eastern Church (1846) and an Introduction to Early Christian Symbolism (1859). In his later years he wrote, in Latin, a commentary on the book of Daniel (1874) and translated from the Russian The Patriarch Nicon and the Tsar, 6 v. (1871–76). His learning was highly respected by Newman, Perrone, and Dölinger.
He must be distinguished from his contemporary, another William Palmer (1803–85), an Anglican theologian of repute who in 1846 published a reply to Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.