He was born at Baflo, near Groningen, and named Roelof Huysmann Huysmann. He was educated at the University of Louvain, where he graduated as master of arts. After living for a time in Paris, where he worked with Heynlin von Stein, he went, in around 1474, to Italy and attended lectures in Ferrara by the famous Theodorus Gaza on the Greek language. Having visited Pavia and Rome, he returned to his native country in 1481 and worked hard to promote study of the classics.
In the same year, he spent a short time at the court of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. In 1482, on the invitation of Johann von Dalberg, Bishop of Worms, with whom he had become friendly while in Italy, he accepted a professorship at the University of Heidelberg, and for three years lectured there and at Worms on the literature of Greece and Rome. In 1485 he travelled to Rome with the bishop but was taken ill and returned to Heidelberg where he died.
His personal influence was more significant than his writings in the promotion of classical education in Germany. He was much praised by Erasmus and other critics of the next generation. In his opposition to scholastic philosophy, he anticipated the intellectual revolution that followed.