The Origin of Sherlock Holmes

By Penny Chavers
Sherlock Holmes LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 08: A reproduction of a copy of the book 'A Study in Scarlet' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 8th December 1986. Source: (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

Was Sherlock Holmes a real person?

Sherlock Holmes was actually a fictional character but based on a real person. The real person was a man by the name of Dr. Joseph Bell who was a forensic scientist at Edinburgh University. Author Conan-Doyle actually studied under him and was impressed enough by him to use him as his subject in his books. He also worked for him as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Dr. Bell inspired him in various ways such as his knack for drawing great conclusions from minor observations.

The first book he wrote about Sherlock Holmes was called “A Study in Scarlet” and was written in 1886 and first appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887 and then in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. Considered rare now, a copy of this edition in Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887 sold for $156,000 at Sotheby’s in 2007.

The first series grew in popularity with more exposure in The Strand Magazine in 1891, and later more series of short stories as well as two of his serialized novels appeared in 1927.