Sherwood Willoughby Watson, lecturer in physics, received his secondary schooling at the Public School in Barkley East and passed the matriculation examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1909, obtaining the fifth highest marks of the 879 candidates. He continued his studies at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, and was awarded the BA degree with honours in physics by the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1912. That same year he was appointed as lecturer and demonstrator in physics and applied mathematics at Rhodes University College, Grahamstown. During World War I (1914-1918) he was on war duty, at least part of which he appears to have spent at the Cavendish Laboratory in England, and afterwards returned to his lecturing post. While in England he continued his studies at the University of Cambridge, which subsequently awarded him an MA degree. By 1930 he had been promoted to senior lecturer in physics at Rhodes, a post he still held in 1936. By that time he had also obtained the degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Later he became a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Watson was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science and in 1931 served as joint secretary of its Section A (which included physics) when the association held its annual congress in Grahamstown. In July 1955 he was present at a meeting in Pretoria at which the South African Institute of Physics was formed. In 1925 he married Helen Margaret Symonds, with whom he had two daughters.