Adolph Franz Friedrich Ludwig Knigge was born on October 16, 1752 in Bredenbeck near Hanover. After being educated by Hofmeister, Knigge studied law in Göttingen from 1769-72. In 1772 he was employed as court squire and assessor of the war and domain treasury in Kassel. In 1777 he became chamberlain of Weimar.
Through his work for the Illuminati order (1780-84) and his advocacy for the realization of human rights, Knigge, who lived in uncertain economic circumstances, fell into the twilight of his aristocratic patrons. This eventually led to the loss of his fortune and forced him to adapt to bourgeois ways of life.
It was only in 1790, when he was seriously ill, that he was given the opportunity to lead a life free of financial worries when he became chief captain and scholar of Bremen. He translated writings by Rousseau and, in addition to several novels, essays and satires, also wrote writings on history, politics and society and the well-known book „On Dealing with People“. He died in Bremen on May 5, 1796.