Loeb was educated at the universities of Berlin, Munich, and Strasburg (M.D. 1884). He took postgraduate courses at the universities of Strasburg and Berlin, and in 1886 became assistant at the physiological institute of the University of Würzburg, remaining there till 1888. In a similar capacity, he then went to Strasburg University. During his vacations he pursued biological researches, at Kiel in 1888, and at Naples in 1889 and 1890.
In 1892 he was called to the University of Chicago as assistant professor of physiology and experimental biology, becoming associate professor in 1895, and professor of physiology in 1899. In 1902 he was called to fill a similar chair at the University of California.
In 1910 Loeb moved to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York, where he headed a department created for him. He remained at Rockefeller (now Rockefeller University) until his death. Throughout most of these years Loeb spent his summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, performing experiments on various marine invertebrates. It was there that Jacques Loeb performed his most famous experiment, on artificial parthenogenesis. Loeb was able to cause the eggs of sea urchins to begin embryonic development without sperm. This was achieved by slight chemical modifications of the water in which the eggs were kept, which served as the stimulus for the development to begin.
Loeb became one of the most famous scientists in America, widely covered in newspapers and magazines. He was the model for the character of Max Gottlieb in Sinclair Lewis's Pulitzer-winning novel Arrowsmith, the first great work of fiction to idealize and idolize pure science.
Loeb was nominated many times for the Nobel Prize but never won.
The main subjects of Loeb's work were:
The Mechanistic Conception of Life is Loeb's most famous and influential work. It contains English translations of some of his previous publications in German.