John Disney, the son of the Reverend John Disney, was president of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society that embraced archaeological investigations in Essex. Disney's collection included material discovered in the Roman cemeteries on the west side of the colonia at Colchester during the construction of the County Hospital. Disney was also instrumental in helping the establishment of the Essex Archaeological Society, along with the Reverend John H. Marsden, the first Disney professor of archaeology.
Disney was involved with political reform and stood as a candidate in three parliamentary elections. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and supported some of the first demonstrations of photography in Essex.