Steyn was born into Afrikaner aristocracy in Stellenbosch on August 14 1932. His father was a founding member of the Stellenbosch University law faculty. His grandfather was a celebrated fighter in the Anglo-Boer War who was imprisoned by the British in a camp in Green Point and exiled to Sri Lanka, from where he made a daring escape back to South Africa.
After matriculating at Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck, Steyn took a degree in law at Stellenbosch and went to University College Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1932, Johan van Zyl Steyn was the son of an eminent law professor at Stellenbosch and the grandson of one of the founders of the Transvaal province.
Was Johan related to Lucas Cornelius Steyn? He wasn't his father. Sabinet | Law’s supremacy : Johan Steyn remembered
His father (who died at the age of 30, when he was just two) was a brilliant founding member of the Stellenbosch Law Faculty..