Demaine was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the artist sculptor Martin L. Demaine and Judy Anderson. Demaine was a child prodigy; at age 7, he spent time traveling North America with his father, and he was home-schooled until entering college at the age of 12.
Demaine studied at Dalhousie University in Canada, completed his bachelor’s degree at 14 years old, and completed his PhD at University of Waterloo when he was 20 years old.
Demaine’s PhD dissertation, a seminal work in the field of computational origami, was completed at the University of Waterloo. This work was awarded the Canadian Governor General’s Gold Medal from the University of Waterloo and the NSERC Doctoral Prize (2003) for the best PhD thesis and research in Canada (one of four awards). This thesis work was largely incorporated into a book.
Demaine joined the MIT faculty in 2001 at age 20, reportedly the youngest professor in the history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was promoted to full professor in 2011. Demaine is a member of the Theory of Computation group at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Mathematical origami artwork by Erik and Martin Demaine was part of the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 2008, and has been included in the MoMA permanent collection. That same year, he was one of the featured artists in Between the Folds, an international documentary film about origami practitioners which was later broadcast on PBS television.