According to Wikipedia, Samuel Johnson

was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1765 by Trinity College Dublin and in 1775 by Oxford University.

Also, apparently people referred to him as "Dr Johnson" back then.

May I put "PhD" after his name now, for example, in a caption? Like this?

Samuel Johnson, PhD (1709–1784)

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    I'd say calling an Honorary doctorate a PhD is confusing at best, but there may be conventions of which I'm unaware. Mar 18, 2018 at 15:02
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    He was an LL.D. of TCD. There are no Oxford PhD's they are D.Phil. s. But there were none in Dr Johnson's day. Was he a DCL of Oxford? Mar 18, 2018 at 15:24
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    My impression is that calling him "Dr. Johnson" was based on his erudition, rather than degrees. (For that matter, the degree system was not much like the modern one at that time!) Mar 18, 2018 at 17:27
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    Dr Routh (1755-1854), of "verify your references" fame, is lightly later but always Dr Routh. I think in University circles it was absolutely standard to call holders of doctorates "Doctor". And even in London, see Pepys' diary and John Evelyn's. Mar 19, 2018 at 11:30

2 Answers 2



He was an LL D of Trinity College, granted 1765; and a DCL of Oxford, granted 1775.

See https://www.britannica.com/biography/Samuel-Johnson

Note: DCL= Doctor of Civil Law. LL.D.= Doctor of Laws, that is of both the Civil and the Canon Law.

  • DCL = Doctor of Civil Law? Is that why people called him "Dr. Johnson"? I just found oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/… which says the letters "MA" were put after his name when his dictionary was published. Mar 18, 2018 at 15:37
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    He was awarded the Oxford Master of Arts just before the Dictionary was published. His biographer Boswell calls him Doctor because of the LL.D., look at the biography's title. Mar 18, 2018 at 17:29

I am not sure why you would want to do this, but it seems both anachronistic and misleading. Johnson was not awarded a PhD by either institution, and the degree he was awarded was not equivalent to a modern PhD.

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