Can You Identify These Famous Fictional Physicians?

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


August 06, 2018

The Detective Duo

Image from Creative Commons

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), best known for his mystery novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant, Dr John Watson, was a general practitioner and an ophthalmologist. Conan Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he earned his medical degree in 1885.[7] It was during his early years of medical school that he began writing stories in his spare time. After a few years in general practice, Conan Doyle traveled to Vienna for specialty training in ophthalmology. Upon returning to England, he opened up his own ophthalmology practice in London. Although this practice proved to be unsuccessful, Conan Doyle's writing career was quite the opposite. Shortly after his Sherlock Holmes stories were published in book form, he gave up practicing medicine in 1891 to pursue a full-time career in writing.[7,8]

The character of Sherlock Holmes is based on Dr Joseph Bell, one of Conan Doyle's professors at the University of Edinburgh, a man whom Conan Doyle described as having keen powers of observation. The character of Watson, Holmes' confidante, roommate, and the narrator of the Sherlock Holmes novels, is believed by some to be based on Dr James Watson, who was one of Conan Doyle's medical colleagues.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson remain one of the most beloved detective teams in fiction. Both physicians and nonphysicians alike continue to be attracted to the manner in which this duo successfully solves many complex mysteries.

The other authors noted above all can also be described as having celebrated careers, penning monumental novels that have stood the test of time. None, however, were physicians.

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