Born on 20 December 1925 in Kampung Seberang Perak, Alor Setar, Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad started school at Sekolah Melayu Seberang Perak in 1930. He was there for two years, before continuing his education at the Government English School (now known as the Sultan Abdul Hamid College) in Alor Setar. During the Japanese Occupation from 1941 to 1945, he stopped school. After the Japanese surrender, Tun Mahathir resumed his education and received the Senior Cambridge Certificate the same year.
Upon completing his secondary education in 1947, Tun Mahathir received a partial scholarship from the Government to study medicine at the King Edward VII Medical College – the forerunner of the University of Malaya – in Singapore. In 1953, Tun received his MBBS degree from the University of Malaya and immediately began housemanship in Penang. From 1954 to 1957, Tun served the Government as Medical Officer in Alor Setar, Langkawi and Perlis. In June 1957, Tun went into private practice. Later that year, he opened his own MAHA Clinic in Jalan Tunku Ibrahim, Alor Setar – the first Bumiputera private clinic in the state.
Tun’s political involvement began in 1945, when he joined various organisations like Kesatuan Melayu Kedah, Seberkas and Kesatuan Pemuda Melayu Kedah. Whilst still at school, he was also actively involved in the anti-Malayan Union campaign. In 1946 he became a member of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). In 1964, Tun contested in the General Elections, won the Kota Setar Selatan constituency and became a Member of Parliament. It was when he became the Chairman of Food Industries of Malaysia (FIMA) in 1973 that he honed his administrative capabilities.
In 1974, Tun was appointed Minister of Education in Tun Razak’s cabinet. In March 1976, Tun was named Deputy Prime Minister by Tun Hussein Onn. On 16 July 1981, Mahathir became the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, a position he held for 22 years. He retired on 31 October 2003.
Under the stewardship of Tun, Malaysia has witnessed unprecedented economic growth especially in manufacturing, infrastructure, information technology and oil and gas.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to nation building, Tun received numerous prestigious fellowships, awards and honours from universities and academic institutions, both locally and internationally. Honorary Member, Academy of Medicine (1983), Honorary Member , Malaysian Medical Association (1984), Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland (1991 ) , Honorary Fellowship, Academy of Sciences Malaysia (1996) ,Honorary Fellowship, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1997),Honorary Professor , Kyrgyz University (1996) ,Honorary Doctorate in Humanities, National University of Mongolia (1997), and Honorary Doctorate of Literature and Al-Azhar University (1998), to name a few.
In 2001, in recognition of his dedication to promoting human resource development in Malaysia through educational and technological exchange with global perspective, Tun was awarded the Honorary Doctorate by Meiji University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan. After his retirement, he continued to receive various honours. These include an Honorary Doctorate in the field of management and engineering from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (2003), and the Honorary Degree of the Doctor of Letters, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (2003) for his distinguished contributions as a Muslim writer and an outstanding intellectual.