Giuseppe Zerbi was born in Saronno, Italy in 1933. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Pavia in Italy in 1956. Upon completion of his degree, he became an assistant to G. Natta at the Politecnico di Milano.
In 1959, Zerbi became a guest scientist at the University of Minnesota, the first of many guest positions he held in the United States. He remained there until 1962 when he returned to Milan to be a researcher at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR). During his time there, he spent a year at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. as a guest scientist. In 1968, he became Director of Research and of the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at CNR. In 1975, he moved to the University of Trieste, before settling at the Politecnico di Milano for the rest of his career in 1980.
Throughout his career, Zerbi has received numerous awards, including the OSA Lippincott Award, the Italgas Prize, the Max Plank Society Prize, and the Coblentz Society Award. He has published over 500 papers, given invited talks and lectures, and served on the editorial boards for several journals.