Johann Georg Reuther was born on 3 September 1861 in Rostall, Bavaria. As a child Reuther received schooling and only completed part of his compulsury military training. Later, Reuther was employed as a postman and a railway worker before entering the Lutheran Ministry.
Reuther began his religious training at age twenty-four at the Lutheran Seminary of Neuendettelsau, in Hermannsburg. This seminary, under the direction of Pastor Harms, provided most of the missionaries for the Lutheran missions in Africa, India, and Australia.
Reuther arrived in South Australia in October 1888 and spent several weeks with the Barrossa Valley Lutheran Community north of Adelaide (SA). Here he met his future wife, Pauline Stoltz, a widow with three young children. After their engagement, Reuther travelled north to Killalpaninna (SA) with Pastor J Flierl, arriving there on 2 December 1888.
In March 1889 Reuther, one month after Pauline's and his wedding, Reuther moved into the mission house at Killalpaninna with his new family. In 1895 the house was extended to accommodate his growing family. Pauline bore eight more children, seven sons and one daughter. Five of the six sons later joined the ministry.
Pastor Flierl was the senior missionary when Reuther arrived in 1888 and had been at the mission since 1883. After Flierl's resignation, Reuther assumed responsibility for the managing the mission and store, acted as postmaster as well as conducting evangelical duties. In March 1896 he was sworn in as a Justice of the Peace at Hergott Springs (Maree, SA).
At the mission, Reuther became familiar with the language of the local Australian Aboriginal people, the Diari (There are various spellings of 'Diari' including 'Diyari', 'Dieyerie' and 'Dieri'). With the arrival of Carl Strehlow (see AA 315) in 1892, who had attended the same seminary as Reuther and was appointed as his assistant, they were able to record Aboriginal language as well as cultural beliefs. Reuther and Strehlow completed the first translation of the New Testament into Diari in 1895. Reuther preached to Australian Aboriginal people at three out stations Kopperamanna, Etadunna and Boocaltaninna as well as at the bush missions nearest the main mission at Killalpaninna.
Reuther was also in charge of the mission school in the early days of his time at the mission. Reuther's classes were in German and not taught in English until the arrival of Harry (Henry) Hillier.
In July 1899 Reuther completed a 'Diari' grammar, followed by Wonkanguru and Yandruwanta grammars. From the years 1903 to 1906 Reuther spent most of his research time in completing his 'Diari' dictionary of 4200 words. It was during these years that Reuther probably acquired most of his ethnographic collection.
Reuther finally left Killalpaninna on 17 May 1906, after eighteen years of missionary to a property near Eudunda (SA). Reuther spent his time there transforming the property into a successful farming venture and working on his manuscript.
In his last years, Reuther suffered from bouts of depression. Just two months later, on the eve of his silver anniversary to which he and his wife had invited seventy guests, Reuther died in a freak accident while crossing Julia Creek, barely a kilometre from his house. Invited for a wedding anniversary, his guests attended a funeral instead.