Biography of Dr. Watson

Biographical Information and Background of Dr. John H. Watson

Friend and Biographer of Mr. Sherlock Holmes

In A Study in Scarlet, the first of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Watson provides some details of his past and introduces who he is to his readers.  As always, Dr. Watson, as Sherlock Holmes biographer, is in total control of all the information that we know about Watson and Sherlock Holmes.

In the original Sherlock Holmes story, a short novel titled A Study in Scarlet, in the first pages of the first chapter, we are introduced first to Holmes biographer, Dr. John H. Watson, not Mr. Sherlock Holmes with these words:


Being a reprint from the reminiscences of

John H. Watson MD

late of the Army Medical Department


Mr. Sherlock Holmes

   In the year 1878 I took my degree of doctor of medicine of the University of London, and proceeded  to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as assistant surgeon.  The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I could join it the Second Afghan War had broken out.  On landing in Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes and was already deep in the enemy’s country. I followed, however, with many other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Kandahar in safety, where I found my regiment and at once entered upon my new duties.

   The campaign brought honours and promotions to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster.  I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served in the fatal battle of Maiwand.  There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into the hands of the murderous Ghazis had it not been for the devotion and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a packhorse and succeeded in bringing me safely to the British lines.

   Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which I had undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawar.  Here I rallied, and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about the wards, and even to bask a little upon the verandah, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our Indian possessions.  For months my life was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself and became convalescent, I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined that not a day should be lost in sending me back to England.  I was despatched, accordingly, in the troopship Orontes, and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with my health irretrievably ruined but with permission from a paternal government to spend the next nine months in attempting to improve it.

   I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air – or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be.  Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.  There, I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had considerably more freely than I ought.  So alarming did the state of my finances become that I soon realised that I must wither  make a complete alteration in my style of living.  Choosing the latter alternative, I began by making up my mind to leave the hotel and to take up my quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.

   On the very day I had come to this conclusion, I was standing at the Criterion Bar when someone tapped me on the shoulder and, turning round, I recognised young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Barts.  The sight of a friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant thing indeed to a lonely man.”