Professor Tomlinson campaigned for more than a decade to persuade the government to set up a body for teachers giving them parity with doctors and other professionals, and later became its first chairman.
Sashi Sivaloganathan, the GTC vice-chairman, paid tribute to his work.
She said: "John Tomlinson was a remarkable man whose lifelong fight for education was awe-inspiring. Thanks to his tireless work, teachers now have a self-regulating professional body which recognises the vital contribution they make to society.
"John was an inspirational speaker, a committed educationalist and a great friend. His death is an enormous loss, both personally and for education as a whole. He was a lovely man and he will be sadly missed."
Professor Tomlinson, who lived in Coventry, was one of the country's leading educationists. He was chief education officer of Cheshire from 1972 to 1985, and chair of the Schools Council from 1978 to 1982, when it was abolished by the Tories.
He was director of the Institute of Education at Warwick university from 1985 until 1997.
Between 1997 and 2000 he was the academic secretary of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers. He also chaired a number of committees, including the further education inquiry into students with learning difficulties and disabilities.
In 1999, Professor Tomlinson received an honorary degree from the University of the West of England in recognition of his life's work.