Inspection Report III
a Model for
|In the spirit of "the Red Headed League", I have copied
the following statement from the Encyclopaedia Britannica; "The character
of Holmes…partly derives from a teacher at Edinburgh noted for his deductive
reasoning" [The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan,
(15th ed. 1978)]
Specifically, as stated in Conan Doyle, Portrait of an Artist, by Julian Symons (The Mysterious Press 1979) at pages 19,20;
"Conan Doyle always said the model for these deductive skills was Dr. Joseph Bell, surgeon at Edinburgh Infirmary, and one of the professors at Edinburgh University when Conan Doyle was a medical student, In appearance Bell was thin and dark, with piercing gray eyes and a narrow aquiline nose, so that he had some resemblance to the imaged Sherlock Holmes. [Doyle] used the Bell deductive approach when he began to write the stories. Dr. Bell modestly said that Conan Doyle had exaggerated his powers"
Consistent with the above is Conan Doyle, A Biographical
Solution, by Ronald Pearsall (St. Martin’s Press 1977) at pages 10,56,
where it is stated " Joseph Bell, surgeon at the Edinburgh Infirmary, was
transmuted into Sherlock Holmes. Bell considered that Doyle’s medical education
had taught him to be observant" Moreover, the following may be found in
an article entitled The Man Who Hated Sherlock Holmes, The Life of Arthur
Conan Doyle: "[Doyle] then went on to
Finally, the following account of Dr. Bell is set forth in an essay entitled " The Original of Sherlock Holmes" by Dr. Harold Emery Jones:
"All Edinburgh medical students remember Joseph Bell
– Joe Bell – as they called him. Always alert, always up and doing, nothing
ever escaped that keen eye of his. He read both patients and students like
so many open books. His diagnosis was almost never at fault.
Here he dipped his finger in the liquid, and placed
it in his mouth. The tumbler was passed round. With wry and sour faces
the students followed the Professor’s lead. One after another tasted the
liquid; varied and amusing were the grimaces made. The tumbler, having
gone the round, was returned to the Professor.
These methods of Bell impressed Doyle greatly at the time. The impression was a lasting one. This essay was found in an old volume of selected works of Arthur Conan Doyle. See Conan Doyle’s Best Books – In Three Volumes Illustrated, B.F. Collier & Son, Publishers – Sherlock Holmes Ed. (__?__).
In summary, although Dr. Bell may not have been the only model for Sherlock Holmes, he seems to have been the primary one. Thanks to Dr. Bell, at least in part, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made deduction and the power of perception central to the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Copyright 2000, Tom McQuain, All Rights Reserved