Patrick White was born in London in 1912, the son of a wealthy Australian grazier. A sickly child (suffering from asthma), he was educated in Australia and, from the age of 13, at an English public school. After completing his schooling, he worked for two years as a jackeroo on his parents' property. He returned to England in 1932 to attend Cambridge University where he studied French and German literature.
During the Second World War he served as an intelligence officer with the RAF in Greece and the Middle East. After the War, he returned to Australia in 1948 with a Greek friend, Manoly Lascaris, with whom he set up house at Castle Hill - then on the outskirts of Sydney - where they grew and sold vegetables, flowers and milk.
His first novels, which were published during the War, received literary acclaim but it was after he returned to Australia that Patrick White produced his greatest works including The Tree of Man, a long family saga which has been compared to the works of Thomas Hardy and Leo Tolsoy, Voss, which is the epic story of a doomed attempt to cross the Australian continent in 1845, and Riders in the Chariot, set in the imaginary town of Sasparilla which became the setting of several of White's novels and short stories. Both Voss and Riders in the Chariot received the Miles Franklin Award.
Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris moved to Centennial Park, near the centre of Sydney in 1964. In 1966, he published The Solid Mandala, about twin brothers, which he later said was based on himself and Manoly.
During the early 1970s, Patrick White became an increasingly vocal supporter of the reforms instituted by the Whitlam Labour government and, when that government was dismissed, of republicanism.
In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his realistic portrayal of Australian life in novels such as The Eye of the Storm.
In 1981, he published an autobiography, Flaws in the Glass, in which he depicted his life as a homosexual writer in Australia. He also co-operated with David Marr in producing a biography, Patrick White: A Life, published in 1991
Patrick White died in 1990 after a long illness. His lifelong companion, Manoly Lascaris, died in 2003 at Lulworth House in Sydney which, now a nursing home, he been Patrick White's childhood family home.