Thomas Stuart Burnett was born in Edinburgh in 1853 and was the son of lithographic printer Robert Alexander Burnett and his wife Annie Stuart. Already a sculptor by the age of 18, Burnett studied under William Brodie and was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1883. His other works include a statue of Rob Roy (1885), shown as insert, which is remarkably similar in style to the Crusoe statue; a statue of General Gordon and two small statues on the Scott Monument in Edinburgh.
Burnett died in 1888 at the early age of 34 from pneumonia. He is buried at Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh, alongside wife Margaret Irving. His grave is marked with a Celitc cross which bears an image of his profile, sculpted by John Stevenson Rhind (see below).