On December 22, 1851, William Lambert Gooding was born to William and Lydia A. Gooding on the family farm in Galena, Maryland. When he was nineteen years old William Lambert’s father died, and it was discovered the elder Gooding had purchased a subscription for his son to study at Dickinson College. Receiving his bachelor of arts degree from Dickinson in 1874, Gooding wanted to go on to medical school. However, he needed money to pursue those studies. His solution was to accept a teaching position at the Wilmington Conference Academy, Delaware. After a short time, Gooding went on to study at Harvard University. He then continued his studies in Germany for three years at universities in Göttingen, Leipzig and Heidelberg, but poor health forced him to come back to the United States in 1881 without having completed his degree. In recognition of his scholarship, Gooding was awarded an honorary doctorate of philosophy from Dickinson College in 1887.
Once back in the United States, Gooding accepted a one-year teaching position at Wesleyan University. The following year, 1882, he was again employed by the Wilmington Conference Academy, this time as the school's principal. Having returned to Delaware, on October 6, 1882 he married Kathleen Moore, one of his students during his earlier tenure at the academy. He continued as principal of the academy until 1898.
When William K. Dare, professor of history and pedagogy at Dickinson College, became ill in 1898, Gooding was called to fill a one-year appointment while Dare recuperated. His alma mater retained his services, as Gooding was named an instructor in philosophy and education. He brought both disciplines together in 1900 under the aegis of the philosophy department. On September 4, 1916, just a few months short of his retirement, William Lambert Gooding died in his home in Carlisle.