He was born in Kitzingen, studied at Erlangen, Leipzig, and Bonn, then spent five years in the libraries of Copenhagen, Paris, London, and Oxford, and from 1849 to 1890 was professor of oriental languages in the University of Erlangen. His early studies on Pali and the publication of the Kammavâkya (1841) and the Ancedota Palica (1845) did much for the knowledge of southern Buddhism. They were quickly followed by his researches on Zoroastrianism and the Avesta. The edition of the greater part of the extant Avesta, together with the Pahlavi translation (1853–58), was followed by a German version (1852–63), and supplemented by a commentary (1865–69). He published a number of Persian works, as well as grammars of the Old Persian and Old Bactrian languages. Then came the valuable linguistic and archaeological works, Die altpersischen Keilinschriften (1862), Erân (1863), Erânische Altertumskunde (1871–78), Vergleichende Grammatik der alterânischen Sprachen (1882), and Die arische Periode und ihre Zustände (1887).