This paper provides a biography of Rudolph Amandus Philippi (1808–1904), emphasizing his malacological research and his contributions to the natural history of Chile. Philippi is one of the most important, yet overlooked malacologists of the 19th century. He authored significant publications on the Recent and fossil molluscs of Sicily; the Oligocene fossil molluscs of northern Germany; the Jurassic to Recent molluscs of Chile, and marine molluscs from around the world. Philippi was also an instrumental contributor to both the Zeitschrift für Malakozoologie and the second edition of the Systematisches Conchylien-Cabinet, and he founded the Abbildungen und Beschreibungen neuer oder wenig gekannter Conchylien. In a companion paper (Coan & Kabat, 2017), we provide an annotated catalog of the 2,528 species, 40 genera and 3 families that he described in the Mollusca, and a full bibliography, with collations, of Philippi's numerous malacological publications.