Samuel Johnson was born on 18 September 1709, to Sarah (née Ford) and Michael Johnson, a bookseller. The birth took place in the family home above his father's bookshop in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Sarah was 40 when she gave birth to Samuel. This was considered an unusually late pregnancy, so precautions were taken, and a "man-midwife" and surgeon of "great reputation" named George Hector was brought in to assist. The infant Samuel did not cry, and there were concerns for the baby's health. His aunt exclaimed that "she would not have picked such a poor creature up in the street". The family feared that the baby would not survive, and in this extremity, summoned the vicar of St Mary's to perform a baptism. Two godfathers were chosen, Samuel Swynfen, a physician and graduate of Pembroke College, Oxford, and Richard Wakefield, a lawyer, coroner, and Lichfield town clerk.
Johnson's health soon improved and he was put to wet-nurse with Joan Marklew. Some time later he contracted scrofula, known at the time as the "King's Evil" because it was thought royalty could cure it. Sir John Floyer, former physician to King Charles II, recommended that the young Johnson should receive the "royal touch", which he received from Queen Anne on 30 March 1712. However, the ritual proved ineffective, and an operation was performed that left him with permanent scars across his face and body. With the birth of Johnson's brother, Nathaniel, a few months later, Michael became unable to pay the debts he had accrued over the years, and his family was no longer able to maintain its standard of living.