* In a nutshell:
Congratulations to me: for quite a while now I can be referred to as "Dr. Shaviv". As a researcher by nature, I went looking for interesting information about this degree, which requires so much dedication and perseverance, and ends with a short, laconic message on a frameable piece of paper.
Thanks to PhD Comics, who helped cheer me up while working on my dissertation
"So, what are you going to do with your PhD?" - I refer anyone who considered asking this directly to the great comic strip above (click for a larger view). And if the hint is not yet taken, perhaps a direct lesson in PhD etiquette (from the same webpage) might help:
The original sense of the Latin word "doctor" is "teacher". When was the first PhD awarded? Good question. Somewhere around the 11th or 12th century, in Europe. There are different claims as to the exact date and place, but the discipline was probably Law. The title "MD" (Medical Doctor) was only adopted several centuries later. The difference between the two is illustrated in this anecdote ascribed to the wife of Nobel prize laureate, Robert Milikan, who overheard the maid answer the telephone in their house: "Yes," said the maid, "this is where Dr. Millikan lives, but he's not the kind of doctor that does anybody any good."
At some point during these years the title JD (Juris Doctor) joined the celebrations, and in various countries one can find various titles used to denote the same thing, as it is known since the 19th century in Germany: a comprehensive, extensive and original research of some well-defined subject.
Who are the people who spend long, frustrating years writing doctoral dissertations? Obviously, it took a long time until women, black people and minority groups began to have representatives among the PhD's. The oldest graduate, at least until 2004, is a 93 years old ex-vicar. And the youngest? Hard to tell. There are stories about graduates aged 12 (probably a tale), 17 (possibly true) and up to 20-something - probably true, though much less sensational.
How many PhD's are there in the world? It is hard to find accurate data, but the global yearly average is about 100 PhD's per million capita, and in the most developed countries - about thrice that number.
A more accurate answer as to the global number of PhD's is available in Answers.com. In response to the question: "How many PhD's are there in the world?" - one member wrote: "Far too many."