Grignard was the son of a sail maker. After studying mathematics at Lyon he transferred to chemistry and discovered the synthetic reaction bearing his name (the Grignard reaction) in 1900. Doctoral thesis in 1901 "Thèses sur les combinations organomagnesiennes mixtures et leurs applications à des synthèses." He became a professor at the University of Nancy in 1910 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912. During World War I he studied chemical warfare agents, particularly the manufacture of phosgene and the detection of mustard gas. His counterpart on the German side was another Nobel Prize–winning Chemist, Fritz Haber.
The Grignard reaction is an important means of preparing organic compounds from smaller precursor molecules. For this work, Grignard was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912 jointly with fellow Frenchman Paul Sabatier.