Gibson Atherton attended Denison University in Granville and then studied until 1853 at Miami University in Oxford. In 1853 and 1854 he was a teacher at the Academy in Osceola Missouri. After studying law and his 1855 was admitted as a lawyer, he started working in Newark in this profession. For 15 years he was also president of the local Board of Education. In the years 1857, 1859 and 1861, he was elected prosecutor in Licking County. Between 1860 and 1864 he was mayor of the city of Newark. Politically, he joined the Democratic Party. In 1863 he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from Ohio. Three years later, he applied equally unsuccessfully for the post of Appeals judge. Atherton also spent two years in the city council of Newark. In June 1876 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis in part, was nominated at the Samuel J. Tilden as a presidential candidate.
In the congressional elections of 1878 Atherton was in the 14th electoral district of Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington DC chosen, where he became the successor of Ebenezer B. Finley on March 4, 1879. After a re-election in the 13th District, he was able to complete in Congress until March 3, 1883 two legislative sessions. In 1882 he gave up another candidacy. In the same year Gibson Atherton was for six months a judge at the Supreme Court of Ohio. He then practiced as a lawyer again. He died on November 10, 1887 in Newark, where he was also buried.