Joseph Bell

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Dr Joseph Bell

Joseph Bell (1837-1911) was a teacher at the medical school of Edinburgh University in the 19th century. In his instruction, he emphasized the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis. To illustrate this, he would often pick a stranger and, by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle met Bell in 1877, and served as his clerk at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. The Sherlock Holmes character is loosely based on Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell was aware of this inspiration and took some pride in it.

Dr Bell also served as personal surgeon to Queen Victoria whenever she visited Scotland. During his lifetime he published several medical textbooks.

The BBC television series Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginings of Sherlock Holmes was a fictionalised account of Doyle's time as Bell's clerk, which made the degree to which Holmes was based on Dr. Bell closer than it was in reality (with Doyle serving as Dr. Watson). In it, Dr. Bell was played by Ian Richardson.


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