Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born at Edinburgh’s Picardy Place in 1859, and is known as one of the city’s most celebrated authors. Born into an Irish-Catholic family, his mother is believed to have been one of his greatest influences as a writer through her talent for storytelling, as in his biography, Doyle wrote: ‘In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life.’
The family moved to Sciennes Place when Conan Doyle was seven, and he became involved with a group of local lads who were to be the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars. After leaving school in 1876, Conan Doyle decided to study Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he met Dr. Joseph Bell, the inspiration for his famous and much-loved character, Sherlock Holmes.
His early days at university also provided him with the chance to put pen to paper, and the aspiring young writer sent his ‘The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe’ to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, who summarily ignored it. It wasn’t until September 1879, when Conan Doyle was twenty, that his story was published. ‘The Mystery of Sasassa Valley’ appeared in Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal. That same month, his essay on ‘Gelseminum as a Poison’ appeared in the British Medical Journal. This was to set a precedent for Conan Doyle, who continued to use his medical studies to inspire his literary endeavors, and vice versa. When he got his MD from Edinburgh in 1885, he used literary as well as medical sources to research the development of syphilis.
A Study in Scarlet, the first of the Sherlock Holmes series, arrived in 1887. The success of the story led Conan Doyle to continue writing about the wonderfully talented detective, so much so that when he killed Holmes off he was met by such public protest from his readers that the author had to bring his adored detective back once more. In the end, Conan Doyle wrote 60 stories about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson.
In addition to this ever-popular series, Doyle is also known for his other novels including The Lost World, a host of short stories, some historical novels – the most popular of these being Rodney Stone (1896) – and a collection of non-fiction books. The Great Boer War was a 500-page chronicle of the War, gleaned from his experience as a volunteer medical doctor in Africa at the beginning of 1900. The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate provides a comprehensive list of his work, including all of his fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and pamphlets.
The Conan Doyle Pub now sits at York Place – close to Conan Doyle’s birthplace – the inside of which is papered with paraphernalia celebrating Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle in equal measure. The Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, run by The Palmerston Trust, sits at Palmerston Place in Edinburgh’s West End, providing physical, emotional and spiritual support for Edinburgh’s community. In line with Conan Doyle’s conversion to spiritualism in later life, the centre is also home to the Edinburgh Association of Spiritualists. There is also a plaque to Conan Doyle at Edinburgh University’s former Medical School.