Tolkien was educated at King Edward's School in Birmingham before going up to Oxford University as an undergraduate in 1911. There he studied hard and gained a first class degree in English Language and Literature in June 1915.
He married Edith Bratt in Warwick on 22 March 1916. They had four children: John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla. In the photograph (left) we see Tolkien in his World War I British Army uniform. He was sent to the front line in time for the Somme offensive, but after four months he succumbed to trench fever and was sent back to Birmingham to recuperate in hospital.
After the First World War, Tolkien began his career in academia. Starting as a freelance tutor in Oxford, he became an English Language Professor at Leeds University before returning to Oxford as Professor of English Language and Literature in 1925. He continued to teach at Oxford until his retirement from education in 1959. While at Oxford, Tolkien became friends with C. S. Lewis. They met in 1926 and founded a writers' group "The Inklings" in 1930, when he began writing The Hobbit.
In 1937, after publication of The Hobbit, Tolkien began work on the sequel that would become The Lord of the Rings. Initially The Hobbit had been written as a bedtime story for his children, but the sequel was to be an altogether more serious tale. He wanted to create a story more in keeping with the mythology that he saw as his life's work (a mythology that would eventually be published after his death as The Silmarillion). The Lord of the Rings was completed in 1948; parts one and two, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, were first published in 1954, followed by part three, The Return of the King, in 1955.
The Tolkiens moved to Poole in 1968, and in 1971 Edith died aged 82. Tolkien returned to live in Oxford the following year. He died on 2 September 1973, aged 81. J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife are buried in a single grave in Wolvercote cemetery in the northern suburbs of Oxford. Their headstone is inscribed:
Edith Mary Tolkien, Lúthien, 1889-1971
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973
A biography narrated by Judi Dench – The Life of J.R.R. Tolkien:
A BBC Radio 4 interview with Tolkien from 1971:
Two clips of Tolkien talking on film:
More biographical details and a wealth of further information relating to the author and his work can be found at The Tolkien Society's WebPages.
A leading Tolkien online resource can be found at The One Ring.
The Tolkien Wiki is a further source of information that the reader may find useful.