Thousands of years ago, the Lord of Order called Nabu placed his mortal host body in suspended animation in ancient Egypt, in order to heal himself from wounds inflicted over many centuries. Inside an ancient tomb, Nabu slept for thousands of years. In 1920, an archeologist named Sven Nelson, along with his son Kent, discovered the ancient tomb in the Valley of Ur. When the tomb was opened, a deadly gas was released that killed Sven Nelson, leaving his son Kent an orphan.
Feeling tremendous guilt over the death of the boy’s father, Nabu took him under his wing, and over the next twenty years, trained the boy in the use of magic. He bequeathed on him his mystical amulet, helmet, and cloak, as well as all the magical knowledge he had, and in 1940 Nelson decided to put his new abilities to use as Doctor Fate. As one of America’s first costumed Super-Heroes, he was a founding member of the Justice Society of America, and later, the wartime All-Star Squadron.
On his first solo mission, Fate saved a woman named Inza Cramer from the evil sorcerer named Wotan. Not long after, the two were married, and Inza and Kent moved to a mystical tower in Salem, Massachusetts. Due to their vast mystical knowledge, the tower remained hidden and cloaked from mortal eyes, and both Kent and Inza were able to retain their youth for decades.
After the war, Nelson retired from a life of adventuring to focus on archeology, but when the rest of the Justice Society came out of retirement, so did Fate. The JSA teamed up with their successors in the Justice League on several occasions, and eventually Fate even helped form a new Justice League when the previous one dissolved after the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Eventually, Kent and Inza Nelson passed away, and Nabu chose a child named Eric Strauss and the successor of Kent Nelson as Fate. He magically transformed Eric into and adult, and on one of his first missions fighting an Agent of Chaos, he was mystically merged with his stepmother Linda Strauss, and the two became a version of Doctor Fate who was independent of Nabu. In order to help train the Strausses as Fate, Nabu resurrected the body of Kent Nelson and inhabited it. When Eric and Linda Strauss died in battle, their souls were reborn in the bodies of their friends Wendy and Eugene Di Bella. Nabu then restored Kent and Inza Nelson to life, and reincarnated himself as Wendy and Eugene’s child.
Much like the Strausses before them, Kent and Inza now merged into one being to become Doctor Fate, but after a brief time, the strain proved too much for Kent, and Inza became Doctor Fate completely on her own. Her solo career as Fate did not last long though, as both Kent and Inza were killed after the so-called Crisis in time called Zero Hour. All that was left of Fate now was his helmet and mystical talismans. Smuggler Jared Stevens melted down the helmet and amulets into a mystical dagger, and went by the name Fate (no Doctor), as he refused the more formal title when Nabu tried to bestow it on him. Instead, this version of Fate became a demon hunter.
Jared Stevens’ career as Fate was equally short lived. Eventually, the powerful wizard Mordru sought to retrieve the artifacts of Nabu, and killed Stevens to get them. When he takes them for himself, they revert to their original forms of a helmet and an amulet. The next to bear the name Doctor Fate was Hector Hall, the son of the original Doctor Fate’s JSA teammate Hawkman. This version of Fate served in the newly revived Justice Society of America for some time, until a mad version of the Spectre, who was attempting to destroy all magic, banished Hall to a mountaintop where he eventually died.
Finding itself without a host once again, Nabu manifests within the helmet without the need of a host body. Realizing he will soon finally depart this plane of existence, Nabu asks Captain Marvel to throw the helmet into space, hoping it finds a new and worthy bearer. When it crashes down back to Earth, it lands in a dumpster, and is found by none other than Dr. Kent V. Nelson, the original Kent Nelson’s grandnephew. Interestingly, Kent V. Nelson meets a woman also named Inza, with whom he becomes romantically involved, just like his famous relative did, and follows in his footsteps by joining the Justice Society of America.
The New 52
When the DC Universe timeline was reimagined after the events of 2011's FLASHPOINT, the mantle of Doctor Fate was passed on to an Egyptian-American medical student named Khalid Nassour, who was bestowed the helmet of Fate by the goddess Bastet. It turned out that Nassour’s mother was the niece of Kent Nelson, also making him Nelson’s grandnephew. If and when Kent Nelson was ever Doctor Fate in this new timeline has yet to be revealed.