Harm Pinkster was born in Emmen, the Netherlands, 5 March 1942. He lives in Amsterdam.

He has two daughters: Fenne Pinkster, born 7 May 1976 and Akke Pinkster, born 2 July 1978.

He finished the Gymnasium (A and B) in 1960, studied Classics at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (1960-7), where he also obtained the doctorate in 1971.

He is professor emeritus of Latin, de Universiteit van Amsterdam.

He is Member of the Academia Europaea (1989), Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy (2004), Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters (2008), Member of the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (1988), and Erelid of the Vereniging Classici Nederland (2009).

He holds an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Chicago (2006) and a doctorado honoris causa from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (2017).