Long before reaching one of the highest political offices in the nation, Biden — born on November 20, 1942 — grew up in the blue-collar city of Scranton in northeast Pennsylvania. His father, Joseph Biden Sr., worked cleaning furnaces and as a used car salesman. His mother was Catherine Eugenia "Jean" Finnegan.
Biden, who was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and New Castle county, Delaware, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware in 1965 and a law degree from Syracuse University in New York in 1968. During this time he married (1966) Neilia Hunter, and the couple later had three children.
After graduating from law school in 1968, Biden moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to begin practicing at a law firm. He also became an active member of the Democratic Party, and in 1970 he was elected to the New Castle County Council. While serving as councilman, in 1971, Biden started his own law firm.
In 1972, the Delaware Democratic Party encouraged a 29-year-old Biden to run against the popular Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs for the United States Senate. Although few thought he stood any chance, Biden ran a tireless campaign organized mostly by family members. That November, in a tight race with a large turnout, Biden won an upset victory to become the fifth-youngest U.S. senator elected in the nation's history.
Shortly after he won his first Senate race, Biden's life was stuck by personal tragedy when he lost his first wife, Neilia, and baby daughter, Naomi, in a car accident. He famously took the oath of office for his first Senate term from the hospital room of his toddler sons Beau and Hunter, who both survived the accident.
From 1973 to 2009, Biden served a distinguished Senate career. During his time in the Senate, he focused on foreign relations, criminal justice, and drug policy and won respect as one of the body's leading foreign policy experts, serving as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations for several years.
In 1987, having established himself as one of Washington's most prominent Democratic lawmakers, Biden decided to run for the U.S. presidency. He dropped out of the Democratic primary, however, after reports surfaced that he had plagiarised part of a speech from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without appropriate attribution.
Biden had been suffering severe headaches during the campaign, and shortly after he dropped out in 1988, doctors discovered that he had two life-threatening brain aneurysms. Complications from the ensuing brain surgery led to blood clots in his lungs, which, in turn, caused him to undergo another surgery.
In 2007, 20 years after his first unsuccessful presidential bid, Biden once again decided to run for the U.S. presidency but his campaign never gained momentum, and he withdrew from the race after placing fifth in the Iowa Democratic caucus in January of that year. Several months later, though, Obama—having secured the Democratic nomination after a hard-fought campaign against Clinton—selected Biden as his running mate.
While Biden mostly served in the role of behind-the-scenes adviser to the president, he took particularly active roles in formulating federal policies relating to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama defeated Romney in the 2012 election, earning a second term as president and Biden another term as vice president.
On May 30, 2015, Biden suffered another personal loss when his son Beau died of brain cancer at the age of 46. The younger Biden was seen as a rising star of US politics and had intended to run for Delaware state governor in 2016. The elder Biden has credited Beau with encouraging him to run again, and has used both tragedies on the trail to explain why healthcare - one of his signature policy goals - is "personal" to him. Biden garnered considerable goodwill following Beau's death.
In January, 2017, President Obama presented Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction, the nation's highest civilian honor, in a surprise ceremony at the White House.
On April 25, 2019, Biden delivered the expected news that he was running for president in 2020. On August 11, 2020, Biden announced Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. Later that month, Biden officially became the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.