Biography / Mystery / Popular Culture / History of Medicine


Dr. Joe Bell
Model for Sherlock Holmes
Ely M. Liebow

Popular Press

"It is to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes," wrote Arthur Conan Doyle to his former professor and mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell, in 1892.

A distinguished physician and professor of medicine at Edinburgh University, and a forensic expert for the British Crown, Joseph Bell was well known for his remarkable powers of observation and deduction. In what would become true Sherlockian fashion, he had the ability to deduce facts about his patients from otherwise unremarkable details. In one instance recounted by Arthur Conan Doyle himself—and similar to Sherlock Holmes's own observations in "The Greek Interpreter"—Bell took little time to determine that one of his patients had recently served in the army, a non-commissioned officer discharged from his Highland regiment stationed in Barbados:

"The man was a respectful man, but did not remove his hat. They do not in the army, but he would have learned civilian ways had he been long discharged. He has an air of authority and he is obviously Scottish. As to Barbados, his complaint is elephantitis, which is West Indian and not British."

Based on extensive research into the life of Bell and including tantalizing accounts of the connections between Bell and Conan Doyle, this biography is required reading for anyone interested in Victorian medicine, in the history of detective fiction, and in Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

"Thoroughly researched, fully illustrated, and enthusiastically written, [Liebow's] biography paints a splendid portrait of the man Doyle once called 'the most notable of the characters whom I met' at Edinburgh." —The Baker Street Journal

Ely M. Liebow is professor emeritus of English at Northeastern Illinois University.

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the cover of Liebow's book shows an illustration of Dr. Joe Bell, but he cast a familiar shadow, Holmes in his deerstalker hat and pipe.

March 2007

LC: 81-085520 PR
286 pp. 6 x 9 23 b/w photos
ISBN 978-0-87972-198-5

Paper $26.95 t

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