Conan Doyle And Joseph Bell: The Real Sherlock Holmes, Surgeons' Hall Museums, Edinburgh

John Chalmers,Retired Doctor,Edinburgh
Monday 07 August 2006 00:00 BST

This is a small but fascinating exhibition on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his teacher, the surgeon Joseph Bell, who was his inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Bell's ability to learn much about his patients simply from his powers of observation is legendary, and several examples are given in this show.

Conan Doyle abandoned medicine after 10 years to concentrate on writing, which brought him fame and financial success. In a film made in 1929, the year before his death, he recounts the background of his books. And, in a letter to Bell, Doyle wrote: "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes... round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man."

The exhibition shows drawings and paintings by Conan Doyle's artist father, whose work became increasingly bizarre as he lapsed into insanity, leaving the family in financial difficulty. Also on display are first editions of Conan Doyle's books, letters to his friends and vignettes of his associates. In addition, the history of the Bell family, which produced four generations of eminent surgeons, gives an interesting picture of the development of surgery in Edinburgh.

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