The thymus provides a nurturing environment for the differentiation and selection of T cells, a process orchestrated by their interaction with multiple thymic cell types. We used single-cell RNA sequencing to create a cell census of the human thymus across the life span and to reconstruct T cell differentiation trajectories and T cell receptor (TCR) recombination kinetics. Using this approach, we identified and located in situ CD8αα+ T cell populations, thymic fibroblast subtypes, and activated dendritic cell states. In addition, we reveal a bias in TCR recombination and selection, which is attributed to genomic position and the kinetics of lineage commitment. Taken together, our data provide a comprehensive atlas of the human thymus across the life span with new insights into human T cell development.