Jakob Ludwig Karl Grimm and his brother Wilhelm Karl Grimm were born in Hanau in 1785 and 1786, respectively. During the early years of the brothers' youth, the family lived in Steinau, and they attended the lycée in Kassel. Beginning in 1806, both studied in Marburg. After their studies, the brothers received positions as librarians at the Hessian State Library in Kassel.
During the years 1812 to 1815, the brothers produced the essential parts of their world famous collection of fairy tales. Many of the fairy tales which the Grimms collected and wrote down were told to them by the story teller Dorothea Viehmann from Niederzwehren. The Brothers Grimm were not only collectors, retellers, and editors of "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" (children and house fairy tales) and "Deutsche Sagen" (German Sagas); they are also considered the founders of Germanic philology.
At this time, they also began work on their etymological "German Dictionary." With the ground-breaking work "German Grammar," Jakob Grimm became a professor at the University of Göttingen in 1830, and five years later Wilhelm also received a position as professor at the same university. Despite their claim to be scholars, the Brothers Grimm were also engaged in political questions. From publishing political tracts to Jakob Grimm's activity as a delegate to the National Assembly in 1848, the brothers worked to unite the many small states which made up Germany at that time.
The Brothers Grimm also helped in formulating human rights in Germany. Because of a polemical pamphlet against the breach of constitution by the King of Hannover, Ernst August II, they, along with five other professors, were let go from their positions in 1837.
Jakob Grimm was banished, and the brothers lived together for three years in exile in Kassel with no positions. On the instigation of the young Prince William of Prussia, the two went to Berlin in 1840, to work on the "German Dictionary" with financial support from the Leipzig publishers Reimer and Hirzel. Wilhelm Grimm died in Berlin in 1859. His brother Jakob died there in 1863.