John Nott was born on 1st February 1932, son of Richard and Phyllis Nott of Bideford, Devon. He was educated at King's Mead, Seaford, then Bradfield College and finally Trinity College, University of Cambridge. In 1959 he married Miloska Sekol, of Maribor, Slovenia; they have two sons and one daughter.
Before going to university, Nott served as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles during the Malayan emergency, (1952-56). He then went up to Trinity College from 1957 to 1959 to read Law and Economics and was also President of the Cambridge Union in his final year. He was then called to the Bar in the Inner Temple in 1959 and in the following year became a General Manager at the Merchant Bankers S. G. Warburg and Company Limited, staying at Warburgs until 1966.
In 1966 Nott became MP for St Ives, Cornwall, a seat which he was to hold until his retirement in 1983. Six years later he was appointed Minister of State at the Treasury (1972-74), following this up with becoming Conservative front bench spokesman on first Treasury and Economic Affairs (1975-76) and then Trade (1976-79). Nott remained with Trade when the Conservatives returned to power, being appointed Secretary of State for Trade by Margaret Thatcher in 1979, then becoming Secretary of State for Defence in 1981, a position which he held until 1983.
On leaving politics, Nott returned to the business world, becoming Chairman and Chief Executive of Lazard Brothers and Company Limited from 1985 to 1990 (and Director, 1983-90), then Chairman of Etam plc (1991-95). He was also Deputy Chairman of Royal Insurance PLC from 1986 to 1989 (Director, 1985-91) and Director of Record Treasury Management plc from 1991.
He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1979 and a KCB (Knight Commander, Order of the Bath) in 1983.