He studied oriental languages at the Universities of Kiel and Leipzig, obtaining his PhD at Halle in 1867. Sachau became a professor extraordinary of Semitic philology (1869) and a full professor (1872) at the University of Vienna, and in 1876, a professor at the University of Berlin, where he was appointed director of the new Seminar of Oriental languages (1887).
He travelled to the Near East on several occasions (see his book Reise in Syrien und Mesopotamien, published 1883) . He is especially noteworthy for his work on Syriac and other Aramaic dialects. He was an expert on Persian polymath Al-Biruni and wrote a translation of Kitab ta'rikh al-Hind, Al-Biruni's encyclopedic work on India.
While a student at Kiel, he became part of the fraternity Teutonia Kiel (1864). He was a member of the Vienna and the Prussian Academy of Sciences, and an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society in London and the American Oriental Society. He worked as a consultant in the planning and construction of the Baghdad Railway. Among his better known students was Eugen Mittwoch, a founder of modern Islamic studies in Germany.
- Inedita Syriaca. Eine Sammlung syrischer Übersetzungen von Schriften griechischer Profanliteratur, 1870 – A collection of Syriac translations of writings from Greek secular literature.
- Reise in Syrien und Mesopotamien, Leipzig, F.A. Brockhaus, 1883 – Journey to Syria and Mesopotamia.
- Muhammedanisches recht nach schafiitischer lehre, Stuttgart, Berlin, W. Spemann, 1897 – Islamic law in regards to Shafi'i teaching.
- Am Euphrat und Tigris : reisenotizen aus dem winter 1897-1898, Leipzig : J.C. Hinrichs, 1900 – The Euphrates and Tigris, travelogue in the winter of 1897-1898.
- "Three Aramaic Papyri from Elephantine, Egypt" in Smithsonian Institution Annual Report (1907): 605-11. [Translated and abstracted, by permission, from Drei Aramaeische Papyrusurkunden aus Elephantine by Eduard Sachau in the Abhandlungen der koeniglichen preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften for the year 1907.]
- "Alberuni's India. An account of the religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology, astronomy, customs, laws and astrology of India about A.D. 1030", (published in English) London, K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1910.
- Die chronik von Arbela, ein beitrag zur kenntnis des ältesten christentums im Orient, Berlin, Verlag der Königl. Akademie der Wissenschaften, in kommission bei Georg Reimer, 1915 – The chronicle of Arbela, a contribution to the knowledge of the oldest Christianity in the Orient.
- Arabische Erzählungen aus der Zeit der Kalifen, München: Hyperionverlag, 1920 – Arabic tales from the time of the Caliphs.
- Die Nachfolger der Exegeten: deutschsprachige Erforschung des Vorderen by Ludmila Hanisch
- Plett - Schmidseder by K. G. Saur Verlag GmbH & Company, Walter De Gruyter Incorporated
- WorldCat title Kitab al-Biruni fi tahqiq ma lil-Hind, etc.
- Brockhaus' Zeno.org Kleines Konversations-Lexikon
- "Paragraph based on translated text from an equivalent article at the German Wikipedia".
- WorldCat Identities Most widely held works by Eduard Sachau