Alexander Andries Maramis was born in Manado on 20 June 1897 to Andries Alexander Maramis and Charlotte Ticoalu. Maramis' aunt was Maria Walanda Maramis, an Indonesian National Hero who sought to advance the circumstances of women in Indonesia at the beginning of the 20th century. Maramis attended the Dutch language elementary school (ELS or Europeesche Lagere School (nl)) in Manado.. He then attended the Dutch secondary school (HBS or Hogere burgerschool (nl)) in Batavia (now Jakarta) where he met and became friends with Arnold Mononutu (also from Minahasa) and Achmad Subardjo.
In 1919, Maramis left for the Netherlands where he studied law at Leiden University. During his time in Leiden, Maramis became involved with the association for Indonesian students in the Netherlands or Indische Vereeniging or Perhimpunan Indonesia. In 1924, he was elected as secretary of the organization. Maramis graduated with a law degree in 1924. When he returned to Indonesia he went into private practice in Jakarta and Palembang.
Maramis was appointed to the Investigating Committee for Preparatory Work for Independence or Badan Penyelidik Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan (BPUPK) that was established on 1 March 1945. Maramis was part of a working committee consisting of nine members called the Panitia Sembilan. This committee formulated a constitutional preamble that sought to capture the main values of the ideological principles called Pancasila that was outlined by Sukarno in his speech on 1 June 1945. The preamble was called the Jakarta Charter or Piagam Jakarta. On 11 July 1945 during one of the BPUPK plenary meetings, Maramis was appointed to a commission to edit the Constitution (or Panitia Perancang Undang-Undang Dasar) before it was to be voted on by all members of the BPUPK. He would later be asked by President Suharto in 1976 to be part of a committee to provide an interpretation of Pancasila as its meaning was thought to have deviated at the time.
Maramis was appointed as Minister of Finance in the first Indonesian cabinet called the Presidential Cabinet on 26 September 1945. He replaced Samsi Sastrawidagda who was initially given the position when the cabinet was formed on 2 September 1945. Sastrawidagda resigned from the position after just two weeks due to his chronic illness. Sastrawidagda was the first person to be appointed as the Indonesian Minister of Finance, but because of Sastrawidagda's very short time in office, Maramis could be considered, by de facto, as the first Indonesian Minister of Finance.
As Minister of Finance, Maramis was instrumental in the development and printing of the first Indonesian currency notes or Oeang Republik Indonesia (ORI). It took a year before the notes were formally issued on 30 October 1946 to replace Japanese notes and notes circulated by the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA). These notes (Series 1) were in denominations of 1, 5, and 10 sen notes, plus ½, 1, 5, 10, and 100 rupiah notes. The notes include Maramis' signature as Minister of Finance or Menteri Keuangan.
Maramis would serve again as Minister of Finance consecutively in the First Amir Sjarifuddin Cabinet on 3 July 1947, the Second Amir Sjarifuddin Cabinet on 12 November 1947, and the First Hatta Cabinet on 29 January 1948. During the Hatta administatration on 19 December 1948, the Dutch started the military offensive called Operation Kraai or Agresi Militer Belanda II. Sukarno, Hatta, and other government officials in Yogyakarta were captured and exiled to Bangka Island. Maramis was in New Delhi, India at the time. He received a wire from Hatta before being captured with instructions to form a government-in-exile in India should Sjafruddin Prawiranegara not be able to form an emergency government in Sumatra. Prawiranegara was able to form the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Sjafruddin Emergency Cabinet in which Maramis was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs. After Sukarno and Hatta were released, Prawiranegara returned control of the country to Hatta's cabinet on 13 July 1949 and Maramis returned to his position as Minister of Finance.
Between 1950 and 1960, Maramis represented Indonesia as ambassador to four countries: the Philippines, West Germany, the Soviet Union, and Finland. For several months he held both the ambassadorships of the Soviet Union and Finland at the same time. After completing his service as ambassador to the Soviet Union and Finland, Maramis and his family settled in Switzerland. When he was about to return to Indonesia in 1976, he was living in Lugano.
Maramis married Elizabeth Marie Diena Veldhoedt, whose father was Dutch and mother was from Bali. They did not have any children, but Elizabeth had a son from a prior marriage whom Maramis accepted and gave the name Lexy Maramis. Maramis' father, Andries Alexander Maramis (the given names are swapped), was the older brother of Maria Walanda Maramis.
After almost 20 years living outside of Indonesia, Maramis expressed the desire to return to Indonesia. The Indonesian government arranged for his return and on 27 June 1976 he arrived in Jakarta. Among the greeters at the airport were his old friends Achmad Subardjo and Arnold Mononutu, and also Rahmi Hatta (the wife of Mohammad Hatta). In May 1977, he was hospitalized after suffering a celebral hemorrhage. Maramis died on 31 July 1977 at Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital, just 13 months after returning to Indonesia. He was laid in state in the Pancasila room at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then buried in the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery.
On 15 February 1961 Maramis received the Bintang Mahaputra Utama and on 5 October 1963 he received the Bintang Gerilya. Maramis was posthumously awarded the Star of the Republic of Indonesia or Bintang Republik Indonesia Utama on 12 August 1992. On 30 October 2007, Maramis was recognized by the Indonesian World Records Museum as the Minister of Finance whose signature is on the most number of Indonesian notes or Oeang Republik Indonesia (ORI). Between 1945 and 1947, his signature was on 15 different notes.
The headquarters of the Indonesian Ministry of Finance is named the A.A. Maramis building.