Charles Sturt was born on the 28 April 1795 in Bengal, India, where his father, Thomas Lenox Napier Sturt, was a puisne judge in the East India Company's service. He was educated in England at Astbury in Cheshire, and at Harrow.
Sturt entered the British Army in 1813 and saw service in Spain, Canada, France, and Ireland. In 1827 he went to Australia where he was appointed Military Secretary to the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Ralph Darling.
In 1828-1829 Sturt led the first of his major expeditions in Australia; he traced the Macquarie, Bogan, and Castlereagh rivers and discovered the Darling River. In his next expedition down the Murrumbidgee river (1829-1830) he discovered the Murray River and followed it to its source near Adelaide. Between 1844-1846 Sturt led his third major expedition north from Adelaide to the edge of Simpson Desert; his party became the first to penetrate the centre of the continent.
In addition to his expeditions Sturt was also Assistant Commissioner of Lands (1839-1842) and Registrar-General with a seat in the Executive and Legislative Councils (1842-1849). He was Colonial Treasurer from September 1845, and in August 1849 became Colonial Secretary, a post he held until his retirement in 1851.
In 1853 Sturt moved with his family to England. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Geographical Society (who presented him with their founder's gold medal in May 1847). Sturt died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on the 16 June 1869.