Buddha was born as Prince Siddharta Gautama around 2,500 years ago in Lumbini, Nepal. Soon after his birth, a holy man predicted that Siddharta would either become a great king or a famous spiritual teacher. Siddharta's father wanted his son to be an able successor to the throne and therefore kept him away from everything that could incline him towards spiritualism. The prince therefore led a very sheltered life in the palace. However, he soon proved himself to be an excellent sportsman with a great intellect. He also married a beautiful woman and had a son.
One fine day, during an impromptu visit to the city, a 29 year old Siddharta discovered that there was too much suffering in the world around him. He realized what sickness, old age and death were and was greatly shocked at his discovery. Thereafter, he dedicided to search for a way to end this and in the process renounce everything he had. He soon left everything including his wife and child to set out on a spiritual quest for the ultimate truth.
In the following years, Siddharta came in contact with many teachers who left ever lasting impressions on his mind. Alara Kalama was his first teacher who taught him a form of meditation that led to a "state of no-thingness" (without any moral or cognitive dimension). However, Siddharta realized that it was not going to solve suffering and therefore continued his search for the ultimate solution.
Udraka Ramaputra was his second teacher who taught him meditative absorption leading to "the state of neither perception nor non-perception". But the prince again realised that this was not the state he was looking for.
He then tried his hand at some extreme ascetic practices at Uruvilva, with five other ascetics who turned into his followers. However, it did not work out and Gautama nearly died of starvation.
After six years of wandering, Siddharta realised that just wearing down his body did not generate new insights. Instead it led to weakness and self-destruction. He decided to give up extreme asceticism that resulted in his students leaving him.
Siddharta then sat down in a place now called Bodhgaya in North India under a Bodhi-tree and decided not to get up anymore until he discovered the truth. In a short time, he became a fully enlightened Buddha. He actualised all positive potentials of a sentient being and rid himself of all negative qualities. With this, he realised the true nature of existence and sufferind and the best way to get rid of it.
Seven weeks after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha gave his first discourse in Sarnath, near Varanasi. It was here that he preached the four noble truths. The Buddha continued to teach during his life, till he passed away at the age of 81.
The Buddha once summarised his entire teachings in one sentence:
"I teach about suffering and the way to end it".
The main disciples of the Buddha are also known as the Great Arhants: Shariputra, known for his understanding of the Abidharma teachings; Maudgalyayana, known for his psychic powers; Mahakashyapa, the great ascetic; and Ananda, the personal attendant of the Buddha who recalled every word the Buddha spoke.
The Buddha's life is also sometimes summarized in the so called 'Twelve Deeds of the Buddha'.
For more on Buddha's life and deeds, you can visit the web links mentioned below.