William Hartnell was the first Doctor Who and was born in 1908. He played Doctor Who from 1963 to 1966, and went on to star in other TV shows such as The Army Game (which can be bought at the link) from 1957 to 1958, and the first Carry On film. Born to a single mother, Hartnell had a tough start to life and dabbled in petty crime. However he was soon working at a theatre and had parts in numerous plays.
At the outbreak of World War 2, Hartnell joined the British Army and served in the Tank regiments for 18 months, until leaving after a nervous breakdown. He returned to acting and was given the part of Albert Fosdike in the Noel Coward film 'In Which We Serve'. However after turning up late for the first day of shooing he was promptley sacked by Noel Coward. Not a great start. His first break into television was as Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore in the series The Army Game from 1957 to 1961. However by 1963 he was about to start the Doctor Who craze as the first Doctor.
Verity Lambert of the BBC, was working on a new science fiction series for children called Doctor Who. After seeing Hartnell and his performance in the TV series The Sporting Life she offered him the main part. At first Hartnell was hesitant, after working on big screen films, to take the part playing in a childrens sci-fi series, but eventually was convinced. A few people mentioned over the years that Hartnell could be hard to work with and a little intolerant, however this is often refuted. The first episode of Doctor Who was aired on 23rd Novemeber 1963 and started the current craze. Hartnell always wore a wig whilst playing Doctor Who as the character had long hair. Eventually due to his deteriorating health Hartnell handed over the position of Doctor Who, himself saying there was only one person who could now play the Doctor, Patrick Troughton. They came up with the idea that as the Doctor was an alien, he would be able to regenerate his body into a younger version, and change his appearances in doing so. In the 4 part series The Tenth Planet, Doctor Who transforms from William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton.
Hartnell would appear on the TV again in Doctor Who episodes, however with his deteriorating health and memory, he could not remember lines well and in his final appearance in the series from 72-72 called The Three Doctors, he just sat and read a few lines from cue cards. In 1975 he died from heart failure in his sleep.