He was born at Frankfurt am Main.
In 1832 von Meyer issued a work entitled Palaeologica, and in course of time he published a series of memoirs on various fossil organic remains: molluscs, crustaceans, fishes and higher vertebrata, including the Triassic predator Teratosaurus, the earliest bird Archaeopteryx lithographica (1861), the pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, and the prosauropod dinosaur Plateosaurus.
In Palaeologica, von Meyer proposed a classification of fossil reptiles into four major groups based on their limbs:
His second group he belatedly termed Pachypodes in 1845, later revising to Pachypoda, from the Greek "pachy-/παχυ-" ("stout") and "pous/πους" ("foot"). It is interesting to note the relation of this group to Dinosauria, coined a few years earlier by Richard Owen.
His more elaborate researches were those on the Carboniferous amphibia, the Permian reptiles, the Triassic amphibia and reptiles, and the reptiles of the Lithographic slates; and the results were embodied in his great work Zur Fauna der Vorwelt (1845-1860), profusely illustrated with plates drawn on stone by the author.
He was associated with W Dunker and Karl Alfred von Zittel in the publication of the Palaeontographica, which began in 1851. He was awarded the Wollaston medal by the Geological Society of London in 1858.