The Life of Holmes’ Creator


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, now hailed as "Unesco City of Literature." He received a medical degree from the University of Edinburgh, where he studied under the noted surgeon Joseph Bell, author of the textbook A Manual of the Operations of Surgery. The relationship between Doyle and Bell is the topic of a television drama launched in 2001, "Murder Rooms." ACD's thesis on the effects of syphilis is available online.

He served as doctor on an Arctic whaler and kept a journal of the voyage, first published in 2012.

ACD lived in SouthseaBirmingham, and elsewhere, and practiced as a doctor briefly.

His first published short story (not about Sherlock Holmes) was "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" in 1879 — a startling success. His first novel, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887 and introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world.

ACD lived for a time in South Norwood, a suburb of London, and later near Hindhead, Surrey. A campaign is continuing to preserve Undershaw, the house at Hindhead where he lived from 1896 to 1907. His final residence was at Crowborough, Sussex.

He was the author of more than 50 books, including historical novels (most famous The White Company), science fiction (Professor Challenger), domestic comedy, seafaring adventure, the comic adventures of Brigadier Gerard, the supernatural, poetry, military history, and many other subjects.

He wrote the comic play 'Jane Annie' jointly with James Barrie, creator of Peter Pan.

In 1893, ACD "killed" Sherlock Holmes by reporting his apparent death in "The Final Problem," the last story of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He wanted to devote time and attention to his "more serious" writings. Holmes was briefly brought back in The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1901, then revived in "The Empty House," 1903, and subsequent tales.

He was knighted (becoming "Sir Arthur") in 1902 to recognize his work in Boer War propaganda (particularly the pamphlet The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct) — and, some said, because of the publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

A constant writer of letters to the editor and crusader for social reforms, he was especially interested in criminal justice (he took a personal role in the George Edalji and Oscar Slater cases), military strategy (though he never served in the armed forces), public health, sports (cricket, boxing, the Olympics), divorce law reform, Belgian exploitation of the Congo, and the Piltdown hoax. He twice ran unsuccessfully for Parliament. ACD visited Canada in 1914, when Lady Conan Doyle kept a diary that can be viewed online through technology from the Toronto Reference Library. (ACD also made Canadian visits in 1894, 1922, and 1923.)

He died 7 July 1930.

Arthur Conan Doyle and Spiritualism

A life-long interest in psychic matters led him to acknowledge Spiritualism as his faith; he spent the years from 1918 to his death preaching Spiritualism around the world and writing books and pamphlets in support of it (The New Revelation, 1918). Principal beliefs included the survival of personality after death and the possibility of communication (through mediums) between this world and the next.

He was badly taken in by the Cottingley fairy hoax of 1920. (See also Public Domain Review and He was a friend, then a foe, of showman Harry Houdini.