Madai was born in Halle, and studied at the University of Halle. He became a lecturer there in 1832 and professor in 1835. He moved to the University of Dorpat in 1837, where he stayed until in 1843 he became a private secretary of Duchess Elisabeth von Nassau. In 1845 he became Professor of Law at the University of Kiel, where he took part in the debates over the Schleswig-Holstein Question. He participated in the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848, and then became envoy of the provisional government of Schleswig-Holstein to the German Confederation. In 1849 he also became Professor of Law at the University of Freiburg, where he died in 1850.
His cousin Guido von Madai was a Prussian civil servant.
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