Edward Rooper, son of Reverend Thomas R. Rooper and his wife Persis Standley, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade in 1834 and promoted to captain in September 1842. He first served in South Africa from November 1846 to June 1850. During this period he participated in the Seventh Frontier War (War of the Axe, 1846-1847), particularly in the Amatola Mountains during September and October 1847. From 1 January 1849 to (probably) 31 May 1850 he was appointed resident magistrate of East London. He returned to the Cape with his regiment from March 1852 to November 1853 to take part in the Eighth Frontier War (1850-1853). During both visits he collected seeds and bulbs which he sent to his father, who presented some of the more interesting specimens to Kew Gardens and the Chelsea Botanic Garden in London. Rooper also made watercolour sketches of local plants and landscapes. Seventy-seven of these were later acquired by the Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria. A further 31 sketches depicting Cape landscapes, none of which are dated and only one of which is signed, are in the Africana Museum, Johannesburg. The plant species Hypoxis rooperi and Kniphofia rooperi were named after him.
Rooper was promoted to brevet major in September 1854. Soon thereafter, on 5 November, he was wounded in the battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War and died at sea a few days later.