Friedrich Schmidt -Ott was born as the son of Albrecht Schmidt and Emilie nee Schneider. He attended from 1866 to 1873 the Royal Wilhelms -Gymnasium in Berlin and from 1873 to 1878 the Kassel Frederick High School, which he left as Primus Omnium. Since that time, he formed a friendship with Prince William, the future German Emperor Wilhelm II, who also attended this school.
He studied from 1878 to 1881 in Berlin, Heidelberg, Leipzig and Göttingen Jura, among others, Heinrich Brunner and Rudolf von Jhering. From 1881 to 1884 he was a trainee. During this time he also served as a one-year volunteer in the Guards Rifle Battalion in Berlin. Later, he was a reserve officer in the Brandenburg Rifle battalion 3 in Lubben.
After law school and graduation, he became a civil servant in the higher public service employees and 1888 by Friedrich Althoff in the Ministry of the spiritual and educational matters ( Ministry of Culture), his successor as Secretary of the teaching department, he was in 1907. Schmidt -Ott appeared in numerous fields of science and culture policy, in the Prussian museums and libraries or the founding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society from 1909. From 6 August 1917 to November 1918 he was Prussian minister of culture.
Schmidt -Ott suggested in 1920 together with Fritz Haber, the establishment of the Emergency Association of German Science and became its first president. He was in 1930 elected an honorary member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.
On June 23, 1934 Schmidt -Ott was dismissed by the Nazis as president of the Emergency Association. His successor was the physicist Johannes Stark. After the Second World War Schmidt -Ott was honorary president of the newly founded German Research Foundation.
1895 married Friedrich Schmidt nine years younger Luise Margarethe Ott. Since the silver wedding 1920 he was called Friedrich Schmidt -Ott.
Schmidt -Ott was buried at St. Anne's Cemetery in Berlin.