He was born at Karlberg Castle, Stockholm on 21 March 1833 and died at Frösundavik near Stockholm on 13 June 1878. He matriculated at Uppsala University in 1853, studying medicine and passing the medico-philosophical examination in 1857. He then turned to entomology and completed his Ph.D at the University of Jena in 1859. The same year he became assistant to Carl Henrik Boheman in the Zoological department of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, where, in 1867, he was appointed keeper with the title of professor.
He made trips in Sweden and throughout Europe and studied the collection of Johann Christian Fabricius in Kiel.
In 1869, he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
- Sphinctomyrmex stali, species of ant named after Stål