Adler was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania in 1883 and gained a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1887, where he taught Semitic languages from 1884 to 1893. He was employed by the Smithsonian Institution for a number of years, with a focus on archaeology and Semitics, serving as the Librarian from 1892-1905. He was a founder of the Jewish Welfare Board, and an editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia, and part of the committee that translated the Jewish Publication Society version of the Hebrew Bible published in 1917. At the end of World War I, he participarted in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
He was president of the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning from 1908 to 1940 and Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He was also a contributor to the New International Encyclopedia. In addition, he was a founding member of the Oriental Club of Philadelphia.
Adler was a bachelor much of his life, marrying Racie Friedenwald of Baltimore in 1905, when he was 42. They had one child, a daughter Sarah. From 1911 until 1916, Adler was Parnas (president) of Congregation Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia. He died in Philadelphia, and his papers are held by the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Joseph Jacobs (1901–1906). "Adler, Cyrus". Jewish Encyclopedia.
- Dictionary of American Library Biography. (1978). Bohdan Wynar, ed. "Adler, Cyrus (1863-1940)." Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited. p. 3-5. ISBN 0-87287-180-0
- Bowden, Henry Warner (1993). Dictionary of American Religious Biography (2nd ed.). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-313-27825-3.
- Adler, Cyrus. I Have Considered the Days. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1941.
- Neuman, Abraham A. Cyrus Adler: A Biographical Sketch. New York: The American Jewish Committee, 1942.
- Cyrus Adler Lectures on His Presidentially-Mandated Tour of The Levant Shapell Manuscript Foundation
- Articles written by Cyrus Adler on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
- The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York archival entry on Adler's papers.
- Center for Jewish History Guide to the papers of Cyrus Adler (and biography).
- Fact Monster Entry for Cyrus Adler.
- Works by Cyrus Adler at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Cyrus Adler at Internet Archive
- Works by Cyrus Adler at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)