Little Bits of History

He Never Said “Elementary”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2010

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle

July 7, 1930: Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, doctor and prolific author, dies of a heart attack. Doyle was born in Scotland to Irish parents and was sent to the Jesuit preparatory school Stonyhurst at age nine, which did not have the desired effect. He was an agnostic by the time he left. He went on to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

His medical practice wasn’t very successful and to fill the time, Doyle began to write. He was published before he turned twenty. Sherlock Holmes, based on professor Joseph Bell, made his first appearance in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet. In 1891, Doyle started to plan Holmes’s demise. Doyle ended up killing him off in December 1893 so that he could devote more time to his historical novels. Readers revolted and Holmes was resurrected by yet another twisting plot. He appeared in 56 short stories and four novels.

Most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are told by Dr. Watson, his faithful roommate and friend. Two are told from the protagonist’s perspective. There is little actual knowledge of Holmes early life but some facts can be gleaned from the works published. The great detective took rooms at 221B Baker Street, London (with 17 steps up to the door). The man could make much of small clues, but also used a group of street urchins, the Baker Street Irregulars. Watson described his friend as eccentric and we are told he preferred his pipe to cigars and cigarettes, but smoked them as well. Holmes went even further and used cocaine habitually and morphine and opium occasionally. All these were legal substances at the time – although Holmes was not opposed to bending the law to help solve a crime.

Doyle was an avid proponent of justice and personally opened two closed cases, proving that incarcerated men were in fact not guilty of their crimes. He was equally fascinated with fairies and spirits and wrote books on spiritualism. Doyle has been implicated as being one of the perpetrators of the Piltdown Man hoax in a revengeful move against science for debunking one of Doyle’s favorite psychics.

“It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle.” – Frederick Buechner

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“I have learned never to ridicule any man’s opinion, however strange it may seem.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“Holmes: I followed you.
Man: I saw no one.
Holmes: That is what you may expect to see when I follow you.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

Also on this day, in 1983 Samantha Smith visits Moscow at Yuri Andropov’s invitation.