He was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham, and subsequently studied at Mason Science College (which later became the University of Birmingham), graduating Bachelor of Medicine in 1894.
At age 24, Swale qualified in medicine, and travelled to the University of Heidelberg to study under Albrecht Kossel. He then returned to Mason Science College as a demonstrator of physiology. In 1896, Vincent"s first paper, entitled "The Suprarenal Capsules in the Lower Vertebrates," was published in The Proceedings of the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society.
This research earned him a British Medical Association Research Scholarship, presenting the opportunity to work with East.A. Schäfer, the original discoverer of the suprarenal capsules, at University College in London.
In 1897, Vincent succeeded Benjamin Moore as Sharpey Scholar, becoming assistant professor to Schäfer, and, in 1899, to Ernest Starling. In 1900, Vincent was appointed a lecturer at Cardiff, where his students included future cardiologist Thomas Lewis, with whom he published two papers on the biochemistry of muscle.
Lewis later wrote, "I have always been grateful to Vincent for giving me my first introduction to scientific work." Two years later, he was awarded the Francis Mason Research Scholarship, and rejoined Schäfer, now at the University of Edinburgh, to study the physiology of the thymus and other ductless glands. In 1904, Vincent was appointed the first Professor of Physiology at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.
Here, he oversaw the research of biochemist Alexander Thomas Cameron, and was influential in fostering Cameron"s interest in endocrinology.
Vincent remained at Manitoba until 1920, when he returned to London to become Professor of Physiology at Middlesex Hospital. He retired from this post in 1930. Vincent"s research on endocrinology earned him a strong international reputation in his field