Arthur Conan Doyle was born 156 years ago today in Edinburgh, Scotland. The third of ten children, Conan Doyle studied medicine at Edinburgh University and worked as a ship’s doctor before setting up his own practice in Southsea. He later gave up practicing medicine to pursue a literary career full-time and penned one of fiction’s most famous detectives, Sherlock Holmes.
To celebrate his birthday, here are five interesting particulars about Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and writings:
1. The inspiration for Sherlock Holmes came from Conan Doyle’s medical studies, where he was mentored by Dr Joseph Bell. Bell was known for his powers of deduction and superior observational skills and could diagnosis a patient, building detailed analysis of their lifestyle purely from his observations.
2. Conan Doyle wrote fifty-six short stories and four novels around the character of Sherlock Holmes between 1887 and 1927. Conan Doyle originally killed off the detective in ‘The Final Problem’, so he could pursue other literary efforts. After a public outcry from his readers, the writer eventually revived Holmes and penned The Hound of Baskervilles.
3. While he is most famously known for writing the Sherlock Holmes stories, Conan Doyle also authored a number of historical titles, fantasy novel The Lost World and a pamphlet entitled The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct. For the latter work, Conan Doyle was knighted by King Edward VII.
4. Apart from his interests in medicine and literature, Conan Doyle also had political aspirations and was a crusader for justice. He stood for Parliament (but was unsuccessful both times) and investigated two closed cases, where his work helped to correct miscarriages of justice.
5. After watching Houdini’s act in 1920 at Portsmouth, the author and illusionist became friends. They would later become public foes, over their differing beliefs as Conan Doyle and his second wife, Jean, became heavily involved in spiritualism. Conan Doyle toured internationally to lecture on his beliefs, participated in séances and compiled a two volume work The History of Spiritualism.
Want to know more about Arthur Conan Doyle?
Crime Fiction: A Very Short Introduction
Oxford World’s Classics
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Marketing and Product Specialist, Stephanie Swain, loves books, food, and books about food. She is slowly trying to make her way through reading the Oxford World’s Classics.