The fourth of the five Schlagintweit brothers of Munich, at an early age he joined his brothers Hermann and Adolf in their Alpine researches, and jointly published Neue Untersuchungen über die physikalische Geographie und Geologie der Alpen in 1854.
In 1854, acting on the recommendation of Alexander von Humboldt, the East India Company commissioned Hermann, Adolf, and Robert to make scientific investigations in their territory, and particularly to study the Earth's magnetic field. For the next three years, they travelled through the Deccan, then up into the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Kunlun mountains. Hermann and Robert were the first Europeans to cross the Kunlun.
Subsequently Robert returned to Europe, and became a professor of geography at the university of Giessen in 1863. He made several trips to America between 1867 and 1870. Starting in Boston with the Lowell Institute with a series of twelve lectures on "Orography and Physical Georgraphy of High Asia," he gave lectures throughout the United States. He also explored the Pacific coast. He wrote several books on American subjects, including Die Pacificeisenbahnen in Nordamerika (1870), Kalifornien (1871), Die Mormonen (1874), and Die Prärien des amerikanischen Westens (1876).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Schlagintweit". Encyclopædia Britannica 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 328.
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Schlagintweit, Robert von". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Die Geschichte der Brüder Schlagintweit A detailed story of the adventures of the three brothers Hermann, Adolf and Robert in India and the Himalayas. (German)