Born in Lugano, Switzerland, Arigoni completed his undergraduate studies in Chemistry from Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich in 1951. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry from Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich in 1955. After completing his Doctor of Philosophy, he became professor at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich.
He has worked on the biosynthetic pathways of many organic natural substances. His doctoral thesis was “Über konfigurative Beziehungen Steroidund Terpenverbindungen”. He was also a visiting professor at Harvard University and Cambridge University.
He has worked as a professor at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich for over fifty years.
Arigoni is known for his research in bio-organic stereochemistry. His major contributions are in the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions and in the biosynthesis of terpenes, alkaloids, and enzyme cofactors.
He has explored the detailed stereochemical pathways by which enzymes convert their substrates into products. His strategy of penetrating into the structure of enzyme-substrate interactions by concentrating on the detailed stereochemical fate of isotopic substrate labels, led him to make basic contributions to the mechanism of enzymic reactions requiring coenzyme B12, one of the "pigments of life".
Member board trustees Sandoz Ltd., Basel, 1984—1996, Novartis Ltd., 1996—1999. Fellow Royal Society Chemistry (honorary, Flintoff medal 1981, Davy medal 1983, Robert Robinson Medal, 1984). Member Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, French Chemical Society (honorary), Italian Chemical Society (honorary, Piria medal 1962, Ouilico medal 1992), American Association for the Advancement of Science (honorary), Royal Society (foreign member 1991), National Italian Academy of Sciences Roma, National Academy of Sciences Washington (foreign associate), Academia Europaea (London), European Academy of Sciences (Brussels), Academy of Sciences Paris (foreign associate 2005), Swiss Chemical Society (Bern) (honorary member).
Married Carla Diener (deceased 1998). Children: Coralia, Fabrizio, Michele.