This article provides a quantitative picture of doctoral education in South Africa up to 2010, from the time the first doctorate was awarded in 1899. It identifies the different institutional profiles and emphases of doctoral graduation in South African universities at various periods of time in the context of economic, political and social change. In addition, it analyses the progress that has taken place in attaining the national goal of equity, redress and increased research production to allow South Africa to become a player in the knowledge economy. The article is based on a comprehensive database of all the doctoral degrees awarded by South African universities for over a century. This database was compiled by triangulating various data sources.