He graduated at Harvard in 1839, then taught in Philadelphia and engaged in business for many years, but employed his leisure in physical and philological studies. In 1864 the Magellanic gold medal of the American Philosophical Society was awarded him for his Numerical Relations of Gravity and Magnetism. The results of other mathematical and physical researches were published from time to time in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, and brought him a world-wide reputation as a man of unusual scientific powers and attainments. In 1871 he became a member of the faculty of Haverford College, Pennsylvania, and for a long time was professor of philosophy and logic. He published Elements of Meteorology (1884).
His brother Thomas Chase was a noted Latin scholar. His mother, Lydia Earle Chase, was the daughter of the famous inventor Pliny Earle. Pliny Chase had 2 brothers and 3 sisters. His sister Lucy Chase (1822–1909) was a noted abolitionist, supporter of women's suffrage and the temperance movement, and teacher in contraband camps and freedman schools in the American South. Upon his death, Pliny Chase left a widow, 2 sons and 3 daughters.