His parents dying during his infancy, he was brought up by his uncle, Sir Isaac Tillard.
In 1750 he was appointed by a wealthy silk-merchant, Isaac Bernhard, as teacher to his children.
While still an undergraduate he formed a league with John Herschel and Charles Babbage, to conduct the famous struggle of "d-ism versus dot-age," which ended in the introduction into Cambridge of the continental notation in the infinitesimal calculus to the exclusion of the fluxional notation of Sir Isaac Newton.
Although for a time it was lost sight of on the continent, Sir Isaac Newton thought so highly of this book that he prepared an annotated edition which was published in Cambridge in 1672, with the addition of the plates which had been planned by Varenius, but not produced by the original publishers.
Mention need only be made further of Isaac of Troki, whose anti-Christian polemic (1593) was translated into English by Moses Mocatta under the title of Faith Strengthened (1851); Solomon of Troki, whose Appiryon, an account of Karaism, was written at the request of Pufendorf (about 1700); and Abraham Firkovich, who, in spite of his impostures, did much for the literature of his people about the middle of the 19th century.