He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College, Oxford in 1638, where he had a family connection with the President, Ralph Kettell (1563–1643).
He collaborated with Thomas Willis, and it was to Bathurst that Willis dedicated his first medical publication, the Diatribae Duae of 1659. Bathurst was active in the intellectual ferment of the time, and very well connected. In the account given by John Wallis of the precursor groups to the Royal Society of London, Bathurst is mentioned as one of the Oxford experimentalists who gathered from 1648-1649.
Also in that group were Willis, William Petty and Seth Ward.
The group expanded in the 1650s when it gathered around John Wilkins of Wadham College, close however to Oliver Cromwell, and then included also Jonathan Goddard, Thomas Millington, Laurence Rooke, and Christopher Wren. Later Robert Boyle joined.
Bathurst belonged also to the overlapping circle of physicians following the tradition of William Harvey, and which included again Willis, George Ent, Walter Charleton, Nathaniel Highmore, and Charles Scarburgh. These were royalists who had attended Charles I of England.
In the celebrated case of Anne Greene, who survived a hanging, the physicians intending to dissect the cadaver were Bathurst, Petty, Willis, and Henry Clerke.
He worked in practical medicine under the physician Daniel Whistler (1619–1684). This was during the First Anglo-Dutch War of 1652 to 1654, when Whistler was in charge of wounded naval personnel. He theorised fruitfully in 1654 on respiration, in a dissertation for his higher medical degree, and his ideas were later taken up, by Boyle and John Mayow.
On the English Restoration in 1660 he reverted to a career in the church.
There is a story that he had acted as archdeacon and deputy to Robert Skinner, Bishop of Oxford, who was imprisoned by the Parliamentarians. In 1670, he was Dean of Wells Cathedral.
Foreign three years from 1673, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, earning a complimentary reference in a John Dryden poem. John Harris, a Trinity College student in the 1680s, wrote about the intellectual and scientific atmosphere of the college under Bathurst.
A biography was written by Thomas Warton.
He was one of thirteen sons of George Bathurst. This large royalist family suffered greatly in the Civil War, with six of Ralph Bathurst"s brothers being killed. Theodore Bathurst (died 1651), known as a neo-Latin poet, was a nephew.