He was born in Gluszyna, near Poznan, Western Poland in 1797 and later served briefly with the Prussian army. He tried unsuccessfully to marry a young girl, and then was accused of stealing money from his employer. He moved to London and gave himself the title of Count Strzelecki. In 1834 he went to North America and spent time visiting mineral areas and exploring for minerals. He is said to be the first person to find copper in Canada. In 1836 he travelled along the west coast from Chile to California.
In 1839 he visited the Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and finally landed in Sydney, Australia. He wanted to make a geological map, and explored large parts of New South Wales and Victoria, including the Australian Alps. He climbed Australia's highest mountain, and named it Mount Kosciuszko, after the Polish leader, Tadeusz Kosciuszko.
He spent several years in Tasmania before going back to Sydney. He went back to London in 1843. He wrote a book on his discoveries in Australia called Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. He was given the Founder's Medal by the Royal Geographical Society.
In 1847—8 he was put in charge of the giving out money in Ireland during the Great Famine for the British Relief Association. He established standards for giving out assistance that are still being used.
He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and the Royal Society. He was awarded the K.C.M.G. in 1869. He died from cancer in 1873. He left instructions that after his death his papers were to be burnt and his body buried in an unmarked grave.
A road from Lyndhurst to Innamincka was named the Strzelecki Track after Paul Strzelecki. It was used until the 1930's to move cattle to Adelaide, and now is the main road to Moomba, a huge natural gas field which supplies Adelaide and Sydney. The Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria are also named after him. A large national park on Flinders Island, the Strzelecki National Park, was named after Strzelecki who climbed the mountains there in 1842.
- Heney, Helen (1967). "Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
- "The Strzelecki Track". southaustralianhistory.com.au. 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
- "Strzelecki Ranges". dpi.vic.gov.au. 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
- "Strzelecki National Park". Parks & Wildlife Service. 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011.