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Title: The Science of Sherlock Holmes
Authors: Arunkumar, N.S.
Issue Date: Mar-2010
Publisher: CSIR
Abstract: The English movie Sherlock Holmes dealing with the exploits of the legendary fictional detective released recently in India. It is perhaps the right time to take a close look at the science behind some of Holmes’s forensic exploits.

“How are you?” he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.” “How on earth did you know that?” I asked in astonishment.

THAT was Sherlock Holmes, the legendary consulting detective of all time, created by the Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This conversation happens when Holmes’s chronicler and life-long friend Dr. Watson meets him for the first time, more emphatically, in a chemical laboratory. Watson is a medical man well talented and well read but until he had this startling acquaintance with Holmes he didn’t believe in the ‘inductive method of reasoning’ employed by the master detective.

At first he was reluctant to accept that ‘the science of deduction’ can carry a person from the present to the past, from the present effect to an absent cause. For the bewildered Watson, Holmes explains: “From a drop of water… a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.”

Sherlock Holmes first makes his appearance in A Study in Scarlet published in 1881, modeled against Inspector Duplin of Edgar Allan Poe, who is only an ‘illusion’ of the scientific method as per Doyle. Largely making Duplin an icon of the Scotland Yard, Doyle believed that he had succeeded where Poe had failed. That’s why he made Watson remark: “Holmes has brought criminal investigation as near an exact science as it will ever brought into the world.”

Page(s): 8-14
Appears in Collections:SR Vol.47(03) [March 2010]

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