Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

MAY 22nd

On this day in history in 1859, was born Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Doyle was a physician who was so intrigued by the deductive powers of a university professor, that he created the character of Sherlock Holmes to commemorate him.  

Doyle was born in Edinburgh and was educated at Stoneyhurst College, Whaley and Edinburgh University, where he read medicine. After taking his degree, Doyle worked at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary under Dr Joseph Bell, a practitioner known for his application of close observation to form a diagnosis. One of Bellís techniques was to select a person at random and by close observation of his dress, features and mannerisms, make an accurate deduction of his occupation and recent activities. Bell pioneered techniques known today as forensic pathology. He was well versed in the study of chemicals and, it was said, could analyse types of mud stains, tyre marks and even differentiate between brands of tobacco. The similarity between Bell and Holmes would be elementary even to Doctor Watson.  

When Doyle began to practice medicine, he found business slow, and to fill in the vacant time between patients started to write short stories. His early work was unsuccessful but after he introduced the character of Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, the public created such a demand for more, that Doyle was able to put his medical practice aside and concentrate on writing. Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes and his bumbling friend, Dr Watson, based on Doyle himself, and also about another character Professor Challenger who explored strange worlds. He wrote historical novels and serious texts, particularly on the Boer War, in which he defended Britainís case for involvement in South Africa.  Doyle became so involved in his serious writing that he had little time to spare for Sherlock Holmes and decided to kill him off in an incident where Holmes falls to his death on a Swiss waterfall, in a struggle with his rival Moriarty. There was such a public outcry when Holmes was killed that Doyle was obliged to bring him back with a contrived and outrageous plot, which involved Holmes escaping the plunge down the rapids and lying low for a while for fear of his other enemies.  

Doyle had a full and varied life outside medicine and writing. He was goalkeeper for Portsmouth Football Club. He stood for Parliament twice and received respectable votes but was not elected.  He married twice and was romantically involved with his second wife before his first had died. After his son was killed in the First World War, Doyle became involved in spiritualism and made attempts to contact the dead. He was also involved in the Piltdown Hoax and is one of those suspected of perpetrating this deception.  

Doyle died in 1930 and is buried in the churchyard of All Saints, Minstead, Hampshire SO43 7FY. There is a statue of Doyle at Crowborough Cross, Crowborough, Sussex TN6 1AF and a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh EH1 3JT.  

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