Who Lived at 221b, Baker Street, London?
At 221B, Baker Street, London lived Sherlock Holmes, the greatest of all fictional detectives. He was the creation of British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), who published 60 stories about him, including three full-length novels. Though not the first fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes is arguably the most well-known, with Guinness World Records listing him as the “most portrayed movie character” in history.
Holmes’s popularity and fame are such that many have believed him to be not a fictional character but a real individual; numerous literary and fan societies have been founded that pretend to operate on this principle. Widely considered a British cultural icon, the character and stories have had a profound and lasting effect on mystery writing and popular culture as a whole, with both the original tales as well as thousands written by authors other than Conan Doyle being adapted into stage and radio plays, television, films, video games, and other media for over one hundred years.
The character was in part suggested by that of Dr. Joseph Bell, an eminent Edinburgh surgeon, under whom Conan Doyle studied medicine. The author’s experience as a doctor also have him the necessary background for the creation of Dr. Watson, the supposed narrator of the Holmes stories, who served as a foil for the great detective and became almost as famous as his companion.
Known as a “consulting detective” in the stories, Sherlock Holmes arrived at his solutions by acute observation, and brilliant reasoning. He is known for a proficiency with observation, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.
His first case was A study in Scarlet (1887), a full-length novel. But it was not until short stories began to appear regularly in the Strand Magazine that he and his creator became famous. After the stories had been collected in two books, Conan Doyle became tired of his hero and arranged a suitably heroic death for him in a struggle with his great enemy Moriarty.
However, the public refused to accept that Holmes’s life really ended in that struggle, so the detective was resurrected, and Conan Doyle continued to write about him until his own death. Apart from Holmes, Conan Doyle wrote other fine stories, including The Lost World, The White Company and The Poison Belt.
He was also the author of a History of Spiritualism, and histories of the South African war and the British campaigns on the Western front in the First World War.