Together with his friend James Mason Crafts, he discovered in 1877, named after the two types of reaction Friedel -Crafts Alkylation and Friedel -Crafts acylation.
Friedel studied from 1850 in Strasbourg Science and continued her studies after a break in 1852 at the Sorbonne. From 1856 to 1870 he worked as a curator of the mineral collection of the Ecole de Mines. During this time he deepened his knowledge of chemistry under Charles Adolphe Wurtz in the laboratory of the Ecole de Medicine. In 1860 he met James Mason Crafts here. After receiving his doctorate in 1869 he took a job as a lecturer in 1871 at the École Normale. 1876 was followed by an appointment as professor of mineralogy at the Sorbonne. In 1884 he became Professor of Organic Chemistry of the late Charles Adolphe Wurtz.
From 1889 he was also president of a commission for the reform of the nomenclature of organic compounds.
He was married to Emilie Koechlin ( 1837-1871 ). Charles Friedel was the father of the mineralogist and crystallographer Georges Friedel (1865-1933), his only son.