Richard Barton was born at Painstown, Co. Meath, in 1706, the third son of Revd John Barton, dean of Ardagh. Educated at Trinity College he became a Church of Ireland clergyman. He served as curate in Donaghcloney, Co. Down from 1728 to 1742 and then as curate of Shankill, Lurgan, Co. Armagh from 1742 to 1759.

In 1751 he published The Analogy of Divine Wisdom which attacked the Arain ideas being put forward by some churchmen of the time. He tried to convert local Catholics. John Wesley praised him for his work. When Wesley visited Barton he had difficulty entering the house as it had no doors and few windows. The newly built house had walls made up of mud, brick, stones, wood and bones. The second floor was reached by means of a ladder. The windows had no glass. One room had five sides, another four and another many sides. Barton invented a combination fork-knife which would cut out equal portions of meat thus preventing disputes at the dinner table.

Barton spent twenty years studying the topography and natural history of Lough Neagh and in 1751 he published his findings in Lectures in Natural Philosophy.

Barton died unmarried in 1759.