Wiechert was born in Tilsit, Province of Prussia, the son of Johann and Emilie Wiechart. After his father died, Emilie moved to Königsberg so that Emil could study at the University of Königsberg. Due to economic difficulties he took longer than normal to complete his education, but he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1889.
The following year he became qualified to lecture in physics at a university-level in Germany. He became an assistant to Paul Volkmann at Königsberg University, teaching there, and during the next seven years performed research in physics until 1897, when he received a call to Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen. He started as an assistant of Woldemar Voigt, in physics, and In 1898 he was named professor of geophysics and Director of the Geophysical Laboratory at Göttingen. He became a full professor at the institution in 1905, and would remain there for the remainder of his career. He would be married to Helene Ziebarth, a lawyer's daughter, in 1908, but the couple did not have children.
During his career he made important contributions to the discovery of the electron, the physics of cathode rays, and Liénard-Wiechert Potentials. He was the first geophysicist to present a verifiable model of the Earth's interior as a series of shells. He wrote a number of scientific papers, including a pioneering work on how seismic waves propagate through the Earth. He also devised an improved seismograph and created the field of geological prospecting using small, artificially-created earthquakes.
Toward the end of his life he became increasingly deaf and would suffer from a number of ailments before finally passing away. He died in Göttingen.
Angenheister, G.H., (1928). Emil Wiechert. Nachrichten von der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Geschäftliche Mitteilungen, 53-62.