Engelbert Kaempfer was born in Lemgo on September 16, 1651 as one of the sons of Johannes Kemper, a pastor, and his wife Christine Drepper. He studied at schools in Hameln, Lüneburg, Lübeck, Danzig and Thorn. He went to the universities of Krakow and Konigsberg (languages, medical science, nature studies).
In 1681 Kaempfer traveled to Sweden (Uppsala). He became the secretary to the Swedish embassy, which was to establish trade relations with Russia and Persia by the order of Charles. Kaempfer was sent through Russia to Persia. There, he started to work as a doctor for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1684.
He also traveled to India, Java and Siam. In 1690 he began working as a doctor on the island of Dejima (the outpost of VOC in Japan). The two trips he made for the embassy were the highlights of his two-year stay in Japan. Those trips to Edo to the residence of the ruling shogun had to be made by the charg© d'affaires of the VOC once a year.
On October 31, 1692, Kaempfer left Dejima to go to Batavia. In 1693 he arrived in Amsterdam. He enrolled in the university of Leiden and finished his dissertation there.
He returned to Lemgo in 1694. He became the personal doctor of Earl Friedrich Adolf zur Lippe and opened up his own doctor's office on Steinhof in Lippe. In 1700, he married sixteen-year-old Maria Sophia Wilstach, but their marriage was not a happy one. Kaempfer died on November 2, 1716.
Kaempfer's work of a lifetime remained a fragment due to his death. His manuscripts and collected objects was bought by Sir Hans Sloane, a collector and author. Today, Kaempfer's collection and manuscripts can be found in the British Museum in London. No exhibits of his collection have remained in Lemgo.
In 2001, Kaempfer's 350th birthday was celebrated in Lemgo with various events, lectures and exhibitions. First editions of the new work edition were published in the same year.