Lou Audrieth was born in Vienna, Austria, and became an American citizen in 1912. He was educated at Colgate and Cornell, taking a PhD from the latter in 1926 and remaining there as a fellow for two years. He worked with A. W. Browne during both his doctoral and post-doctoral studies. It was during this time that his interest in the study of nitrogen chemistry and non-aqueous solvent reactions began. He joined the Illinois faculty in 1928.