Born in Hamburg, he studied at Leipzig, Berlin and Göttingen, in 1838 he was appointed to the professorship of philology at the University of Dorpat, which, however, he resigned in 1843. He afterwards spent some time in Italy, but settled in Jena in 1844, where he became professor in 1846. In 1847 he relocated as head librarian to Weimar.
His chief works are: Demeter und Persephone (1837), Griechische Mythologie (1854–1855) and Römische Mythologie (1858). He also co-operated with Heinrich Ritter in the preparation of Historia philosophiae graecae et romanae ex fontium locis contexta (1838).
He contributed extensively to Ersch and Gruber's Allgemeine Encyklopädie and Pauly's Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft.
He died in Weimar.