Hochstetter was born on 30 April 1829 in Esslingen am Neckar. Encouraged by Wilhelm Haidinger, the first Director of the Imperial Geological Survey founded in 1849, Hochstetter began to devote himself to a number of earth sciences ranging from general natural history, anthropology and ethnography, to prehistory. He was a teacher, researcher and organiser. In 1857, he took part in the Novara Expedition, which was energetically supported by the Emperor, and became the first scientific researcher of New Zealand. In 1860, Hochstetter was appointed as Professor of Mineralogy and Geology at the Polytechnical Institute (the current day Technical University) of Vienna. In 1872, he took over the geoscience teaching and research position at the Imperial Agricultural College in the Palais Schönborn in Laudongasse. He died in Vienna on 18 July 1884.
Hochstetter was also the teacher of Crown Prince Rudolf. It is therefore not surprising that in 1866, a large portion of the mineral and stone collection of the Imperial Mineralogical Collection was incorporated into the private collection of the Crown Prince. Pieces of that collection are still today in the possession of the Agricultural University of Vienna, which were donated at the request of his wife, Stephanie of Belgium, after his suicide.