Doyle, Arthur Conan (World of Forensic Science)
The British author Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered as the creator of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. His fictional crime stories describe the law enforcement and forensic techniques used in crime investigations of his era.
Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, into an Irish Roman Catholic family of noted artistic achievement. After attending Stonyhurst College, he entered Edinburgh University as a medical student in 1876. He received a doctor of medicine degree in 1885. In his spare time, however, he began to write stories that were published anonymously in various magazines from 1878880.
After two long sea voyages as a ship's doctor, Doyle practiced medicine at Southsea, England, from 1882890. In 1885, he married Louise Hawkins and in 1891, moved his young family to London, where he began to specialize in ophthalmology. His practice remained small, however, and because one of his anonymous stories, "Habakuk Jephson's Statement," had enjoyed considerable success when it appeared in a magazine in 1884, he began to devote himself seriously to writing. The result was his first novel, A Study in Scarlet, which introduced detective Sherlock Holmes to the reading public in 1887. This was followed by two historical novels, Micah Clarke in 1889 and The White Company in 1891. The immediate and prolonged success of these works led Doyle to abandon medicine altogether and launch his writing career.
The second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of the Four (1890), was followed by the first Holmes short story, "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891). The instant popularity of these tales made others like them a regular monthly feature of the Strand Magazine, and the famous Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series was begun. In subsequent stories Doyle developed Holmes into a highly individualized and eccentric character, together with his companion, Doctor Watson, the ostensible narrator of the stories, and the pair came to be readily accepted as living persons by readers in England and America. But Doyle seems to have considered these stories a distraction from his more serious writing, and eventually grew tired of them. In "The Final Problem," published in 1893, Doyle kills both Holmes and his archenemy, Moriarty. Nine years later, however, Doyle published a third Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, but dated the action before Holmes's literary death. Then, in 1903, Holmes effected his mysterious resurrection in "The Empty House" and thereafter appeared intermittently until 1927, three years before Doyle's own death. All told, Doyle wrote 56 Sherlock Holmes stories and four novels (The Valley of Fear , was the last).
Among the other works published early in his career, which Doyle felt were more representative of his true artistry, were Beyond the City (1892), a short novel of contemporary urban life; The Great Shadow (1892), a historical novel of the Napoleonic period; The Refugees (1893), a historical novel about French Huguenots; and The Stark Munro Letters (1894), an autobiographical novel. In 1896, Doyle issued one of his best-known historical novels, Rodney Stone, which was followed by another historical novel, Uncle Bernac (1897); a collection of poems, Songs of Action (1898); and two less popular novels, The Tragedy of Korosko (1898) and ADuet (1899).
After the outbreak of the Boer War, Doyle's energy and patriotic zeal led him in 1900 to serve as chief surgeon of a field hospital near the front lines at Bloemfontein, South Africa. His The Great Boer War (1900) was widely read and praised for its fairness to both sides. In 1902, he wrote a long pamphlet, The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, to defend the British action in South Africa against widespread criticism by pacifist groups. In August 1902, Doyle was knighted for his service to England.
After being twice defeated, in 1900 and 1906, in a bid for a seat in Parliament, Sir Arthur published Sir Nigel (1906), a popular historical novel of the Middle
After the outbreak of World War I, Doyle organized the Civilian National Reserve against the threat of German invasion. In 1916, he published A Visit to Three Fronts and in 1918, toured the front lines. These tours, plus extensive correspondence with a number of high-ranking officers, enabled him to write his famous account The British Campaigns in France and Flanders, published in six volumes (1916919).
Doyle had been interested in spiritualism since he rejected his Roman Catholic faith in 1880. From 1917 to 1925, he lectured on spiritualism throughout Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada. The same cause led him to South Africa in 1928 and brought him home exhausted, from Sweden, in 1929. He died in 1930 of a heart attack, at his home in Crowborough, Sussex.
SEE ALSO Crime scene investigation; Literature, forensic science in.