Gertrude Himmelfarb was born in Brooklyn, New York and earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College while also taking courses in history, scripture, and Judaic literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She went to the University of Chicago for her doctoral studies in 1942. Under the supervision of Louis Gottschalk, Himmelfarb wrote her dissertation on the British parliamentarian and historian Lord Acton, which she later published as Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics (1952). In 1942, she married Irving Kristol, and the couple had two children. Gertrude Himmelfarb has had a long and noted career as a historian of ideas of 19-century Great Britain, maintaining that the Victorian experience offers unique insights into the problems of the modern world. She has written books and articles on leading intellectuals of the Victorian period, most notably John Stuart Mill and Charles Darwin.