Born in a French family expatriated in Berlin, he started life as one of the Queen of Prussia's pages and stayed in his land of adoption after his family had returned to France
He was one of the founders of the Almanach des Muses in 1804. He then took an active interest in natural history and linguistic studies. He eventually came back to France in 1810, accepting a chair of Greek (soon to be suppressed), and met Madame de Staël, Benjamin Constant and Barante. Barante soon became Prefect of Vendée and took Chamiso de Boncourt as his secretary.
Having returned to Berlin, he spent three years travelling around the world as a naturalist, then became director of the Berlin Botanic Gardens as well as a member of the local Academy of Sciences. In 1819, he married a woman twenty years younger than he ,who gave him 7 children.
He became a favourite with the German people for his Poems, Ballads and, above all, his novel "Peter Schlemihl"which made him more famous than his scientific works