He became a very young doctor obtaining, at 19 years, the “prévot” of anatomy at the Medical school of Rouen. In 1800, he left for Paris and collaborated in the drafting of the comparative anatomy lessons of comparative anatomy of Georges Cuvier.
He replaced Cuvier at the Central School of the Panthéon and had, for his colleague, Alexandre Brongniart. In 1801, he gave courses to the Medical school of Paris. Under the Restauration , he was elected a member of the Académie des Sciences (French Academy of Sciences) and succeeded, after 1803, Lacépède, who was occupied by his political offices, as professor of herpetology and ichtyology at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle. But Duméril only officially received this chair 1825, after the death of Lacépède.
He published his Zoologie analytique in 1806. This covered the whole of the animal kingdom and which shows the relations between (then) genera but not species.In 1832, Gabriel Bibron 1806-1848), who became his assistant, has was given the task of describing the species for an expanded version of Zoologie analytique while Nicolaus Michael Oppel (1782-1820) assisted him with a revised higher (than species) systematics. After the untimely death of Bibron, Auguste Duméril, André’s son replaced him. But the death of Bibron delayed, for ten years, the publication of the new work. In 1851, the two Dumérils, father and son, published the Catalogue méthodique de la collection des reptiles (although the son, Auguste Duméril’ was apparently the true author) and in 1853, André Duméril alone, published Prodrome de la classification des reptiles ophidiens. This last book proposes a classification of all the snakes in seven volumes.
It was Duméril who, discovering a fish case in the attic of the house of Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon finally described these species which had been collected by Philibert Commerson nearly 70 years earlier.
He, then published a very important work, l’Erpétologie général ou Histoire naturelle complète des reptiles (nine volumes, 1834-1854). In this, 1,393 species are described in detail and their anatomy, physiology and bibliography are specified. It should however be noted that Duméril maintained the Amphibians among the reptiles in spite of the work of Alexandre Brongniart or Pierre André Latreille or the anatomical discoveries of Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) or of Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858).
He was interested all his life in the insects and published several memoires on entomology. His principal entomological work is Entomologie analytique (1860, two volumes). With his son Auguste Duméril, also a zoologist, he created the first vivarium for reptiles of the Jardin des Plantes. Duméril always considered observations on animal behaviour of taxonomic significance.
After 1853, he began to cede his position to his son and he retired completely in 1857. He was made a commander of the légion d'honneur two months before his death.