Born in Leicester, England on 19 May 1844, John was the 4th son of Rev. Timothy Sandys (1803-1871) and Rebecca Swain (1800-1853). Living at first in India, John returned to England at the age of eleven, and was educated at the Church Missionary Society College, Islington, then at Repton School. In 1863 he won a scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge.
John obtained a Bell Scholarship and won several prizes for Greek and Latin prose. In 1867 he was elected Fellow at his college, and appointed to a lectureship, then later also a tutorship. He was elected public orator in 1876, and was given the title orator emeritus when he retired in 1919. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Dublin (1892), Edinburgh (1909), Athens (1912) and Oxford (1920). He was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1909, and a Commander in the Greek Order of the Saviour. He was awarded a knighthood in 1911.
Sandys died on 6 July 1922 in Cambridge. He is buried in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.
Besides editing several Greek texts, Sandys published: An Easter Vacation in Greece (1886); a translation and enlargement (with H. Nettleship) of Oskar Seyffert's A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, Mythology, Religion, Literature and Art (1891); and The Harvard Lectures on the Revival of Learning (1905). He is best known, however, for his A History of Classical Scholarship (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press) (3 vols.) (vol. 1, 1903; vols. 2 and 3, 1908). He was also supervising editor of A Companion to Latin Studies (1910; 2nd ed., 1913). New International Encyclopedia
On 17 August 1880 John married Mary Grainger Hall (September 1855 - 26 December 1937), daughter of Rev. Henry Hall (1820-1897), vicar of St Paul's Church in Cambridge. Mary was born in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England, and she died in Vevey, Switzerland, where at the time of her death she was a resident of the Hotel du Lac. She made a bequest to the Museum of Classical Archaeology, Cambridge (founded in 1884) which was the basis of a fund known as the Museum of Classical Archaeology Endowment Fund. John and Mary had no children.
- Reverend Timothy Sandys (January 27, 1803 - November 6, 1871) was a minister in the Protestant Episcopal Church in England. Early in his ministerial career he joined the Church Missionary Society, which sent him to India where he worked as a missionary for 41 years. Before his death he returned to England, where he died in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. He is buried in St. Michael and All Angels Churchyard, Billinghay, North Kesteven District, Lincolnshire, England. Timothy's 1st wife was Rebecca Swain (1800 - 20 March 1853), whom he married on 26 December 1829 in St Margaret's Church, Leicester, Leicestershire, England. She died in Calcutta, India. His 2nd wife, whom he married in 1854, was Emily Guthrie Stuart (December 6, 1825 - December 3, 1902). Emily was born in Scotland.
- "Sandys, John Edwin (SNDS863JE)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- British Academy Fellowship record Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine
- Rev. Henry Hall (1820 - June 23, 1897) - Magdalene College, Cambridge University, B.A. (1841), M.A. (1844); Fellow of Magdalene College (1841-1845); ordained a deacon (1842) and priest (1845); domestic (private) chaplain (1842-1844) to William John Monson, 6th Baron Monson of Burton (1796-1862); headmaster of St Albans School, Hertfordshire (1845-1862); vicar of St. Paul's Church, Cambridge (1862-1890). In 1871 he became a Select Governor of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. On June 26, 1849 Henry married Elizabeth Stevens at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Elizabeth was a daughter of William Stevens, who was mayor of Wisbech in 1845-1846 and 1848. Henry died in Cambridge.