Sheldon was raised in Galveston, Texas by his mother, Mary Cooper, an overtly devout Evangelical Christian and George Cooper. The only member of his family to have encouraged his work in science was his grandfather, who died while Sheldon was still a child. His aunt also encouraged Sheldon by giving him medical equipment, "in case his work in physics failed."
He was interested in physics from an early age, and was a child prodigy, although due to his behavioral quirks and his lack of humility about his superior intellect, he was bullied by classmates and neighbors. Sheldon entered college at the age of eleven, and at age fourteen he graduated from college summa cum laude. From then he worked on his doctorate, was a visiting professor at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and was the youngest person at the time to receive the Stevenson Award. Sheldon is now a theoretical physicist doing research at Caltech.