Wolfgang Kohler was born in Reval, Estonia in 1887. His parents were of German decent, and shortly after he was born, the Kohler family moved to Wolfenbuttell, Germany. The importance of a good education was introduced to Kohler early in life, for his father was a schoolmaster, his sisters were nurses and educators, and Wilhelm, his older brother, was a scholar. As a child, Kohler loved being outdoors and the beauty of classical music (Dahl, 2005). He even learned how to play the piano. As a collegiate, he attended universities such as Tubingen from 1905 to 1906, Bonn from 1906 to 1907, and Berlin from 1907 to 1909. While earning his Ph.D in Berlin, Kohler studied physics under Max Planck and psychology under Karl Stumpf. His dissertation was written on psycho-acoustics and physics - music obviously playing a large role in Kohlers life.
Kohler got married in his mid-twenties as it was custom to do, and he and his wife had four children together. Although not much information is found on Kohler's marriage, we are led to believe that it was not a happy one, and they divorced when was in his thirties. After the divorce,he was married again, but little information can be found on it.(Dahl, 2005).
After Kohler earned his doctoral degree from Berlin, he went on to work at the Psychological institute in Frankfurt, Germany from 1910 to 1913. It is here in Frankfurt where Kohler begins to work with Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka. Together they created Gestalt psychology. The word "Gestalt" is a German word that loosely translates as meaning "whole". The three psychologists chose this word to frame their ideas for their theories. Soon afterward, Kohler began to use chimpanzees as part of his research while serving as the director of the Canary Island Anthropoid Station in 1913. He was involved in this type of research until he returned to Germany in 1920 (Dahl, 2005). .
Also in his career, Kohler was a professor at the University of Berlin from 1920 to 1935.