Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was born on January 22, 1729 to a pastor's family in Kamenz. After attending school in Kamenz and Meißen, he began studying theology and medicine in Leipzig in 1746.
Lessing stopped studying after two years and went to Berlin. He earned his living there as a reviewer and editor but soon devoted himself to writing pieces for the theater. Lessing resumed his studies in Wittenberg and earned the title Magister in 1752.
Back in Berlin, he met and befriended Moses Mendelssohn. In 1755, Lessing returned to Liepzig, but went back to Berlin the next year.
Together with Mendelssohn and Friedrich Nikolai, he published letters on contemporary literature. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing turned more and more toward literature, working as a professional writer in Berlin and as the dramatic advisor for the National Theater in Hamburg beginning in 1767. The premiere of his drama "Minna von Barnhelm" occurred at the National Theater in Hamburg. Lessing met his future wife in Hamburg, Eva König. His "Hamburg Dramaturgy" appeared during this time.
The National Theater in Hamburg closed in 1770 for financial reasons, and Lessing took a position as a librarian in the Duke August Library in Wolffenbüttel. There he translated the medieval work "Schedula diversarum artium" ("List of various arts") by Theophilus Presbyter, which he published in 1774 as "Of the Age of Oil Painting by Theophilus Presbyter" ("Vom Alter der Ölmalerey aus dem Theophilus Presbyter").
In 1772 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing wrote his drama "Emilia Galotti." He married Eva König in 1776. It was a short, happy marriage, for in the next year, their newborn son died, with Lessing's wife following a few weeks later.
In spite of these circumstances and his worsening health, he finished his last piece, "Nathan der Weise," in 1779.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing died on February 15, 1781 in Braunschweig (Brunswick) from the effects of a stroke.