H.E. Richard Bright was the son of John Henry Bright and his wife Katharine Charlotte Bright, born Munt. He was admitted as a government land surveyor in the Cape Colony on 1 September 1858. In 1869 he compiled two survey maps of Lot No. 18, military reserve, King Williams Town. From November 1871 he served as clerk to the governor's agent and chief magistrate of Basutoland (now Lesotho), and during 1872 and 1873 as acting resident magistrate there for short periods. From November 1874 he was a clerk in the civil service of the Cape Colony, rising to chief clerk and accounting officer in May 1876, and under secretary for native affairs in July 1878. He was civil commissioner and resident magistrate at Stellenbosch from 1881 to his death in 1886 and was married to Kate Bright, with whom he had six children.
In 1855 Bright delivered a lecture on Namaqualand and its mines, which was published as a pamphlet in Cape Town. This was only the second description (following that of C.D. Bell* in 1854) of the copper mines and the geology of the region. Bright had been on a visit there and mentions the granite, syenite, gneiss, shists, and quartzite extending from the coast inland to the mines, and in one locality along the Skaap River recognised certain quartzites as Table Mountain sandstone. He appears to have been a cultured person, for in August 1857 he presented a lecture on the English language before the Cape Town Mechanics' Institute, an institution for adult education.
Years later Bright wrote two articles relating to the geology of Lesotho. The first, "Coal in Basutoland", was published in the Cape Monthly Magazine (Second series, 1873, Vol. 7, pp. 173-176). It is a letter written by Bright to the under colonial secretary, describing a 30 cm uneconomic coal seam south of Maseru, with a sketch map and the first published geological cross section through any part of Lesotho. The second, a similar letter on "The geology of Basutoland", appeared in the same journal the next year (Vol. 9, pp. 223-227). In this paper he described the sedimentary strata and first fossil plants from western Lesotho, today assigned to the Upper Karoo Supergroup, but was unaware of the basaltic lava flows that cover the mountains. He also recorded the first earthquake from Lesotho, near Maseru in February 1873. Among his mineralogical finds was ilmenite, now known to occur in Kimberlite intrusions. These two papers make him a pioneer in the geology and palaeontology of Lesotho. Later, at a meeting of the South African Philosophical Society in November 1878, he exhibited some minerals from Damaraland which had been sent to him by W.C. Palgrave* and made some remarks on the geology and mineralogy of that region.
Bright was a fellow of the Geological Society of London. He was a founding member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1877 and served on its council from 1877 to 1881.