Isaac M. Titsingh was born on January 1, 1745, in Amsterdam. Leading up to his entrance into the guild of surgeons in Amsterdam in 1764, he received an excellent education from his father. Titsingh was appointed doctor of law at the University of Leiden in 1765.
In the same year, he left Europe to travel to Asia. Isaac M. Titsingh held various positions during his 34 year career with the Dutch East India Company. From 1766 until 1779, he was responsible for administrative activities in Batavia. He was director of the Company on the island of Dejima/Nagasaki from 1779 until 1784.
Titsingh was ambassador to the shogun's court in Tokyo in 1780 and 1782. He later directed the Company's station in Bengal from 1785 to 1792.
Titsingh then acted as ordinary counsel of India to Batavia from 1792 to 1794. The highpoint of Titsingh's career was definitely his appointment as ambassador to the Chinese court in Peking under Emperor Quianlong. He supervised the festivities during the emperor's sixth period of rule.
On December 11, 1796, Isaac M. Titsingh returned to Europe and settled first in London, then in Bath. Titsingh visited Amsterdam in 1801 and subsequently went to Paris, where he lived until his death on February 2, 1812.
During his life, he was a member of many varied organizations such as the "Asiatic Society of Bengal" in Calcutta, the "Dutch Maatschappij der Werenschappen" in Haarlem, and the "China Hunt Club" in London. Isaac M. Titsingh was also a fellow of the Royal Society in London. His liberal, open intellect made him a pioneer in the area of intermedial understanding and allowed him to effect a mutual exchange of European and Asian culture.