Mahathir Mohamad, the only commoner to be Malaysia's prime minister, was born on 20 December 1925 in Alor Setar in the state of Kedah in northwestern Malaysia. He attended the Islamic Malay schools as a boy and graduated from Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Setar. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Malaya in Singapore and served as an army medical officer in his hometown, Kedah, Langawi, and Perlis before entering private practice in 1957.
A practicing Muslim, Mahathir does not drink or smoke. Popularly known as a workaholic, he is devoted to his political work. His debate skills are reported to be exceptional, though he is known as a leader who does not like to negotiate. Remarking on his medical background, a political opponent commenting on the intra-UMNO strife in 1987 said that Mahathir "will not think of negotiating his way out of a problem the way his predecessors, with their legal backgrounds, would have done. The medical solution is to cut out the cancer." He married Dr. Siti Hasmah binti Haji Mohd Ali in 1956, and they have three sons and two daughters.