A nineteenth-century writer and linguist, he was also a prominent member of the Young Latvia movement. He penned the movement's manifesto, Nationale Bestrebungen, in 1872.
He studied medicine at the University of Latvia but discontinued his studies for financial reasons.
Also a teacher and educational theorist, he wrote numerous articles on the subjects of linguistics and education.
He was the son of a tailor and was raised in Durbe, Latvia.
He and Romain Gary were fellow Latvian writers.