Born on 13 December 1906 in Amsterdam, studied history of French literature at Amsterdam University and the Sorbonne in Paris.
Brugmans, who was one of the intellectual leaders of the European Movement and co-founder and first president of the Union of European Federalists, was rector of the College of Europe in Bruges between 1950 and 1972.
He was awarded the Karlspreis in 1951.
Hendrik Brugmans retired in 1972, when he turned 65. He continued to live and work in Bruges, where he died at the age of 90 in 1997. He was honoured by the College which named the first student promotion after his death the "Brugmans Promotion" and created an annual "Brugmans Memorial Lecture".