Was Sherlock Holmes based on a real person?
Many wonder if the detective who still enthralls readers was based upon a real person, here is the answer.
Conan Doyle, born in Scotland in 1859, studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and went on to work as a physician in England while writing fiction in his spare time. “A Study in Scarlet,” his first novel featuring Sherlock Holmes, debuted in 1887.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective with the knack for solving crimes through observation and reason was modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, one of Conan Doyle’s medical school professors.
A fellow Scotsman born in 1837, the charismatic Bell dazzled his students with demonstrations in which he was able to determine a patient’s occupation and other personal details just by studying his appearance and mannerisms.
In addition to taking class with Bell, Conan Doyle served for a time as his clerk at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where he got a further look at the older man’s diagnostic methods.
Years later, Conan Doyle wrote to Bell: “It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes and though in the stories I have the advantage of being able to place him in all sorts of dramatic positions, I do not think that his analytical work is in the least an exaggeration of some effects which I have seen you produce in the outpatient ward.”
The success of the initial Sherlock Holmes stories enabled Conan Doyle to give up his medical practice in 1891 and devote himself to writing; however, the author grew tired of his creation and killed him off in 1893’s “The Final Problem.” Following a public outcry, Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes and continued to publish stories about the detective until 1927.
Conan Doyle, who was knighted in 1902 for penning a lengthy pamphlet defending Britain’s participation in the Boer War, died in England in 1930 (19 years after Bell’s passing).