Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British author and physician, was the creator of the character Sherlock Holmes. He wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories that feature Holmes. The first publication of this body of work, sometimes called “The Cannon” occurred in 1887. “A Tangled Skein”, was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual after many rejections from other publications. Interestingly, this short story went on to become the basis of the famous novel “A Study in Scarlet”.
A second short story, “The Sign of the Four” was published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in February 1890. This too was subsequently published as a full length novel.
Thus began the illustrious career of Sherlock Holmes.
The inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes was Dr. Joseph Bell, a Scottish lecturer at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh and pioneer in forensic science, particularly in the specialty of forensic pathology. Arthur Conan Doyle met Dr. Bell in 1877 while clerking for him at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He went on to study forensic science under the tutelage of Dr. Bell.
Sherlock Holmes is an exceptional London-based “consulting detective” whose skills mirror those of Dr. Bell. Dr. Bell emphasized the importance of close observation and was renowned for his ability to pick a stranger and, by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities. Thus, Sherlock Holmes became known for his adept use of astute observation, his keen deductive reasoning combined with intellectual prowess and his skill in the forensic sciences.
The majority of the stories are narrated by Holmes’ friend and associate, the British physician Dr. John H. Watson. In fact, he is the voice of all but four of the stories. Of these four, two are written in the third person and the other two are narrated by Holmes. In the two narrated by Holmes, Watson is mentioned, but does not play a role.
The first Sherlock Holmes film was produced on April 26, 1900. Note the use of the term “film” rather than “movie”. That is because “Sherlock Holmes Baffled” ran for a brief 30 seconds and was shown in Mutoscope machines in amusement arcades. From that humble beginning, Sherlock Holmes became the most frequently portrayed fictional character on film, having been played by 75 actors in 211 movies since the production of “Sherlock Holmes Baffled”.
Sherlock Holmes has also appeared in stage productions, on radio shows, on television series and even in a short-lived comic strip.
Obviously, Sir Author Conan Doyle created a much loved character in Sherlock Holmes and this fascination continues today, over a century later. With the release of the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, perhaps another generation of Sherlock Holmes fans will be born.