The German writer and pharmacist Henri Theodore Fontane was born in Neuruppin on December 30, 1819 as the son of the pharmacist Louis Henri Fontane. In 1826 his father sold his pharmacy to pay off gambling debts and the family moved to Swinemünde in 1827. From 1826 to 1832 Theodor Fontane went to the Swinemünde town school, before at his mother's request, he was home schooled by his father and the private tutors of friendly families.
From 1832-33 Theodor Fontane attended grammar school in Neuruppin, from where he went on to Karl Friedrich Klöden's trade school in Berlin. In 1834 he moved to his father's half-brother, Theodor's uncle August. One year later Theodor Fontane first met Emilie Rouanet-Kummer, his later wife. In 1836 Fontane dropped out of trade school and began an apprenticeship as a pharmacist, which he completed successfully in 1840. In 1839 Fontane published his first novella "Geschwisterliebe".
In 1840 he accepted a job as an assistant pharmacist in Burg (near Marburg). During that time he also wrote his first poems. In 1841 Theodore Fontane fell ill with typhoid fever and went to his parents' at Letschin to recuperate. He worked as an assistant pharmacist in Leipzig, Dresden and finally in his father's pharmacy in Letschin. In 1843 Bernhardt von Lepel introduced Theodor Fontane to the literary association "Tunnel über der Spree", which he joined from 1844 to 1865. From April 1, 1844 to March 31, 1845 Theodor Fontane did his voluntary military service in the grenadier guards regiment "Kaiser Franz".
During this period he traveled to England for the first time. Fontane decided to go to his father's pharmacy in Berlin. Theodor Fontane got engaged to Emilie Rouanet-Kummer on December 8, 1845. In March 1847 Theodor Fontane received his license as a "first class pharmacist". In 1848 Fontane fought as a revolutionary in the so-called barricade street battles. During this time, he wrote four rather radical texts for the journal "Berliner Zeitungshalle". At about the same time, he received a job in the Behtanien hospital. On September 30, 1849 Theodor Fontane decided to give up his job as a pharmacist and work as a freelance writer.
Initially he wrote political texts in the radical democratic "Dresdner Zeitung" and published his first book: "Männer und Helden. Acht Preussenlieder". In 1850 Theodor Fontane married his fiancé Emilie Rouanet-Kummer. Together they moved into a small apartment in Berlin. He received a job in the "Centralstelle für Preußenangelegenheiten", on whose behalf he repeatedly traveled to London. Only one of his four sons, his firstborn George Emile, had survived. His only daughter, Martha, was born fifth in 1860, last to be born was his son Friedrich in 1864. That same year, Theodor Fontane traveled to Copenhagen and wrote about the war. In 1870 Fontane worked as a theater critic and also visited the Paris battlefield, where he was erroneously arrested as a spy, only to be released little later. Between 1874 and 1876 Theodor Fontane traveled to Austria, Italy and Switzerland with his wife. Subsequently he decided only to work as a freelance writer. From then on, Theodor Fontane wrote numerous pieces.
In 1892 he fell ill with severe brain anemia. In order to distract himself, he followed his doctor's advice and wrote down his childhood memories.
Fontane was writing incessantly until he died in Berlin on September 20, 1898. Theodor Fontane was buried as a member of the French community in Berlin at the Friedhof II cemetary in Berlin-Mitte.