Alfred Harper Curtis was articled for three years to a firm of engineers in the Swansea district, Wales. He then studied civil engineering and geology at Owens College, Manchester, studied mining and mine surveying at the Royal School of Mines in London, and graduated as Bachelor of Arts (BA) at the University of London. Early in his career he gained practical experience in the metal mines of Cornwall, Devon, North Wales, the Isle of Man and other places. Subsequently he worked in South Africa, Central America, the United States, Algeria, India and Borneo. His visit to South Africa presumably took place during the eighteen-eighties, as he was the author of Gold assaying: A hand-book intended for use on the South African gold fields, a 46 page monograph published in Cape Town in 1888. A few years later he delivered a paper on "Gold-quartz reduction", dealing with ore-dressing and gold metallurgy, before the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers (Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1891-1892, Vol. 108(2), pp. 97-134).
Curtis spent many years in New Zealand, where he arrived in 1896, and also in Japan. In his later years he was on the staff of the Imperial Mineral Resources Bureau and wrote a monograph on Manganese ores (London, 1919).