He was born in Mogilev, Russian Empire (now Belarus). His father was a descendant of German settlers in Courland, while his mother was a Latvian.
Schmidt was a celebrated explorer of the Arctic. In 1929 and 1930, he led expeditions on the steam icebreaker GeorgySedov, establishing the first scientific research station on the FranzJosef Land
He explored the northwestern parts of the Kara Sea and western coasts of Severnaya Zemlya, and discovered a few islands.
Sibiryakov in Arkhangelsk
In 1932, Schmidt's expedition on the steam icebreaker Sibiryakov with Captain Vladimir Voronin made a non-stop voyage from Arkhangelsk to the Pacific Ocean without wintering for the first time in history.
From 1933 to 1934, Schmidt led the voyage of the steamship Cheliuskin, also with Captain Vladimir Voronin, along the Northern Sea Route.
. In 1937, he supervised an airborne expedition that established a drift-ice station "North Pole-1". In 1938, he was in charge of evacuating its personnel from the ice.
Otto Schmidt was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR and a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the first convocation. He was awarded three Orders of Lenin, three other orders and many medals
An island in the Kara Sea, a cape on the coastline of the Chukchi Sea, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Institute of the Earth Physics at the Soviet Academy of Science and others bear Schmidt's name.