Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, he beat all local chess masters handily with innovative strategies by his teens. Purportedly, Morphy demonstrated his genius for chess at the age of 9 correcting his uncle Ernest's moves. Word of his talent spread and a match was arranged with Johann Lowenthal in 1850. Defeating Lowenthal, then considered one the great masters of that period, Morphy's fame grew. He became the national chess champion at age 20.
Paul Morphy went to Europe the following year, beating all opponents there. In Paris Morphy suffered from a bout of influenza and had a high fever; he was treated with leeches, resulting in significant blood loss. Despite the fact that he was too weak to stand up unaided, Morphy insisted on going ahead with a match against Adolf Anderssen in Paris, where he triumphed 7 - 2. English chess master Howard Staunton deliberately ducked all oportunities to play Morphy.
Morphy played exhibition matches, triumphing against 8 to 10 other championship level players at once, while blindfolded.
At the end of 1859 Morphy declared himself bored with chess, gave up the game and returned to New Orleans, to study law by memorizing entire state and federal law codes and case precedents. After a short and successful law career he quit, because of mental illness.
Morphy spent his last years wandering around the French Quarter, talking to people no one else could see.
Paul Morphy died of a stroke at the age of 47.