Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, studied medicine at Edinburgh University from 1876 to 1881. Not only did his fiction drew on the medical knowledge acquired, but the character of Holmes himself is modelled on lecturers that Conan Doyle knew at Edinburgh. He drew particular inspiration from Dr Joseph Bell (1837-1911), for whom he worked as an assistant, and who renowned for the astute powers of observation and deduction that he derived from meticulous attention to detail. Another possible archetype is Sir Robert Christison (1797-1882), Professor of Medicine and Therapeutics, who, like Holmes, experimented with dangerous drugs using both himself and his students as guinea pigs. Another important influence was Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn (1826-1914) who gave Conan Doyle insight into how scientific advances, such as photography and fingerprinting, could be exploited to apprehend criminals.

In 1902, Edinburgh University established a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Prize at the writer's request. It was to be awarded each year on the Graduation Day to the most distinguished medical graduate from South Africa.


  • Medical Detectives [[1], accessed 17 November 2014]