Carl Otto Lampland was born near Hayfield in Dodge County, Minnesota. He was born into a family of ten children. Both his father Ole Helliksen Lampland (1834–1914) and his mother Berit Gulliksdatter Skartum (1850–1943) were born in Norway.
He was educated first at Valparaiso Normal school in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he earned a B.S. degree in 1899. He then studied at Indiana University, where he received a B.A. degree in astronomy in 1902, an M.A. in 1906, and an honorary LL.D in 1930.
He first went to Lowell Observatory in 1902 when invited by Percival Lowell and Lampland was closely involved with Lowell in planetary observation. He designed cameras used for astronomy and also designed and maintained telescopes, including resilvering the mirror of the 40-inch (1,000 mm) telescope. He also constructed thermocouples and used them to measure temperatures of planets. He won the Royal Photographic Society Medal in 1905 for the camera which he designed for the 24-inch Clark telescope. In 1907 Lampland and Lowell won a Royal Photographic Society exhibition medal for their photographs of the canals of Mars
Together with William Coblentz, he measured large differences between the day and night temperatures on Mars which implied a thin Martian atmosphere. He discovered the asteroid 1604 Tombaugh. Lampland lunar crater on the Moon was named after him as is an Impact crater on Mars. The asteroid 1767 Lampland is also named after him.  His date of birth is the starting point for the Mars Sol Date calendar.
- Slipher, Earl C. The Photographic Story of Mars (Cambridge Massachusetts: Sky Publishing. 1962)
- Lampland photographs of Mars