Felix Plater was the son of Lutheran humanist, schoolmaster and printer, Thomas Platter, and the half-brother of Thomas Platter the Younger. In 1552, and only fifteen years old, Plater travelled by pony from Basel to Montpellier to start a six-year course of study under Guillaume Rondelet. Once arrived, he lodged in the house of Laurent Catalan, the town pharmacist and a Maran or Christian Jew. Plater occasionally sent packages of fruits and seeds to his father. His studies took place in an atmosphere of terror and religious persecution. Rondelet taught his students the technique of pressing, drying and mounting botanical specimens on paper, a process practised by his former mentor, Luca Ghini.
Returning to Basel in 1557, Plater soon established himself as a successful physician and became professor of practical medicine at the university, amassing a famous collection of curiosities at his house as well as an enormous library of pressed plant specimens.
Plater's description of Dupuytren's disease in 1614 is explained with regard to his understanding of the anatomy. The current view that Plater believed the disease to be caused by dislocation and shortening of the flexor tendons is based upon misinterpretation of the original Latin text. With the help of his anatomical studies, Plater had proven that subcutaneous ligamentous extensions of the palmar aponeurosis and not the flexor tendons were responsible for Dupuytren's disease. Felix Plater realised more than one hundred and fifty years before Henry Cline, Astley Cooper, and Dupuytren, the palmar aponeurosis was the anatomical substrate of the disease.
In the view of historian David Wootton, developed in the book Bad Medicine, Platter was the first proponent of the Germ theory of disease.