Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Was Sherlock Holmes fictional?

November 29, 2013

What You See Paperweight | UncommonGoodsIn 1877, a young man named Arthur Conan Doyle became a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. One of his duties was to conduct intake interviews for new patients of pathologist Dr. Joseph Bell—who had a gift for deducing much of the same information simply by observing the details of a person’s dress and behavior. He was legendary for predicting a person’s birthplace, habits, recent actions and more without a word of explanation from the person. And while Dr. Bell was not Sherlock Holmes to the letter, he was periodically called in by the police to consult on criminal investigations, including the Jack the Ripper murders. Sometimes, however, life can also imitate fiction. In 1890—three years after Sherlock Holmes first appeared in prints—Dr. Bell went to assist on a particularly scandalous murder of a student by his tutor. Helping Dr. Bell was a ballistics expert who just happened to be named Dr. Watson.

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