I recently started watching Sherlock (TV series) and one thing intrigued me. In the TV show, as evident from the actors playing the roles, Sherlock Holmes appears younger than Dr. Watson. (Benedict Cumberbatch is 5 years younger than Martin Freeman)

But in the Guy Ritchie movie Sherlock is portrayed as the elder character. (Robert Downey Jr. playing Shelock is 7 years elder to Jude law).

I am mentioning the actual age of actors because I think the creators were clear enough at the time of casting that they wanted one character to look elder than the other.

So my question is which character is actually the elder one in the original books?

  • 1
    Are you asking about in the original books or in the BBC series or in the movie? Jul 23, 2014 at 16:34
  • I was asking about the original characters from the book.
    – Ankit
    Jul 24, 2014 at 5:16

1 Answer 1


Dr. Watson is.

In the movies and tv series, there is no clear answer. It's never really be an issue and so actors appropriate for the roles have always been hired, regardless of age.

This seems logical, considering the stories took place over a long period (over 20 years). Considering a show like Sherlock jumps from story to story, his age becomes a little meaningless as if they were aiming for realism in this regard, he would have aged (and de-aged!) several times.

In the books, if you're interested, their dates of birth have been speculated.

For Sherlock:

An estimate of Holmes's age in the story "His Last Bow" places his birth in 1854; the story is set in August 1914 and he is described as being 60 years of age.

Alternatively for Sherlock:

In the very first story, A Study in Scarlet, something of Holmes' background is given. He was born in England either in the year 1854 or the year 1861... His older brother Mycroft, born either 1847 or 1854, whom the younger Holmes considered to be more intellectually gifted than himself, would spend much of his life on Her Majesty's Secret Service. The confusion in birth dates stems from the fact that, in "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter", Sherlock refers to Mycroft as being "[s]even years [his] senior".

For Watson:

In A Study in Scarlet, Watson, as the narrator, establishes having received his medical degree from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, the University of London in 1878, and subsequently being trained at Netley as a surgeon in the British Army. If one assumes that Watson entered the University of London around the age of twenty-five, he was born around 1853.

Alternatively for Watson:

Various (extra-canonical) sources give Watson's birth date as 7 August, 1852 and his full name as Dr John Hamish Watson.

These dates would place Watson as being between one and eight years or so older.

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