Who is Dr. Watson?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: n/a, Dmitriy Lesnyak
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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Dr. Watson is the confrere of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. John H. Watson, like Conan Doyle, was a medical doctor. Dr. Watson shared lodgings with Holmes on Baker Street, accompanied him on many of his cases, and recorded them, acting as Holmes’s biographer. Dr. Watson was married, twice apparently, but his domestic life, indeed, any of his life outside the scope of Holmes’s sitting room and adventures is not very important in this context.

Dr. Watson appears in over 93% of all the works Conan Doyle created that included Holmes, so the relationship between the two men is key in the elucidation of both story and character. Though not unintelligent, Dr. Watson is a bit of a romantic, and serves as a foil for Holmes’s scientific and objective approach. Given a hero who is, at times, a bit unheimlich, readers can connect with the warm and sincere Dr. Watson, and through him, with Holmes.


Dr. Watson is willing to accompany Holmes into danger, and even to risk doing a little breaking and entering or other morally questionable acts in the aim of achieving justice. His medical knowledge is sometimes put to use, and his observations, although often misdirected from Holmes’s perspective, nevertheless serve to call Holmes’s attention to key points that help him work towards a solution. In return, Holmes is fiercely loyal to Dr. Watson, although he rarely expresses it, and sometimes resorts to tricking Watson in order to create a scene in which the truth will be revealed.

Dr. Watson has been portrayed by a number of actors, as the Sherlock Holmes mysteries have a perennial popularity. Those who have played Watson include Nigel Bruce, with Basil Rathbone as Holmes, in the 1940s, Martyn Green, better known from his roles in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas, in 1953, Edward Hardwicke who played the role to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in the 1980s, as well as Robert Duvall, Dudley Moore, John Mills, Ben Kingsley, and Ian Hart.


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