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Biography: Arthur Conan Doyle

"I think of slaying Holmes... and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things."

While it was Arthur Conan Doyle's dream to be remembered for "serious literature", and he had no desire to be remembered for the creation of Sherlock Holmes, it is these works of detective fiction that have provided Conan Doyle with his undisputed place in literature history as the forefather of the genre.


Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 22nd of May 1859. He was one of ten children, and his mother often struggled to make ends meet for her large family, as her husband was an alcoholic and an epileptic who deteriorated with age. Conan Doyle attended a Jesuit prep school and high school, during which time he renounced Christianity.

Conan Doyle attended the University of Ediburgh from 1876 to 1881, studying medicine. He also worked odd jobs, sometimes medically related, to help his mother. He also wrote and published his first short story.

After university, he sailed on a voyage to the West African coast, serving as the ship's doctor. He then moved to Portsmouth to open his first medical practice, which wasn't initially very successful, but enabled him to write his first Sherlock Holmes story.

In 1885 he both achieved his doctorate and married Louise Hawkins, with whom he had two children. In 1890, Conan Doyle took his family to Vienna to study the eye. In 1891 the family moved to London so Conan Doyle could set up a practice as an ophthalmologist. He received no patients, however, and continued to dedicate his time to writing.

In December 1893, the year of his father's death, he attempted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, so he could focus on the production of what he considered to be more important literature. The public outcry was so great at this that Conan Doyle capitulated to public demand and revitalised Holmes.

During the South African War, Conan Doyle worked in a field hospital as a physician. He was knighted for this in 1902. He produced several political pamphlets and was politically active during the rest of his life. He campaigned for justice for people who had been unfairly convicted of crimes, and for lifesaving equipment for the Navy in the lead up to the first world war. He ran for parliament twice but was never elected.

In 1906, Conan Doyle's wife Louise died of tuberculosis, and Conan Doyle was said to be affected by this. In the same year, he investigated the closed case of George Edalji, who Conan Doyle believed to have been falsely imprisoned, and had Edalji released on the strength of Doyle's investigations. Conan Doyle married his second wife, Jean Leckie, in 1907. They had three children.

Conan Doyle's brother and son both died during the first world war, and his mother died shortly after in 1921. This is said to have driven Conan Doyle to Spiritualism, which he was a great believer in for the rest of his life and he wrote many things around the topic. This didn't enhance the public opinion of him, and he is mainly remembered for Sherlock Holmes rather than the theories and beliefs of his later life.

Conan Doyle died of a heart attack at his home on July 7th, 1930. His house is currently under dispute as a historical site.


Sherlock Holmes Stories

  • A Study in Scarlet (1887)
  • The Sign of Four (1890)
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1904)
  • The Valley of Fear (1914)
  • His Last Bow (1917)
  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927)

Professor Challenger stories

  • The Lost World (1912)
  • The Poison Belt (1913)
  • The Land of Mist (1926)
  • The Disintegration Machine (1927)
  • When the World Screamed (1928)

Historical novels

  • Micah Clarke (1888)
  • The White Company (1891)
  • The Great Shadow (1892)
  • The Refugees (publ. 1893, written 1892)
  • Rodney Stone (1896)
  • Uncle Bernac (1897)
  • Sir Nigel (1906)
  • The British Campaign in France and Flanders: 1914 (1916)

Other works

  • "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" (1884)
  • Mystery of Cloomber (1889)
  • The Captain of the Polestar, and other tales (1890)
  • The Great Keinplatz Experiment (1890)
  • The Doings Of Raffles Haw (1891)
  • Beyond the City (1892)
  • Jane Annie, or the Good Conduct Prize (1893)
  • My Friend the Murderer and Other Mysteries and Adventures (1893)
  • Round The Red Lamp (1894)
  • The Parasite (1894)
  • The Stark Munro Letters (1895)
  • Songs of Action (1898)
  • The Tragedy of The Korosko (1898)
  • A Duet (1899)
  • The Great Boer War (1900)
  • The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard (1903)
  • Through the Magic Door (1907)
  • Round the Fire Stories (1908)
  • The Crime of the Congo (1909)
  • The Lost Gallery (1911)
  • The Terror of Blue John Gap (1912)
  • Danger! and Other Stories (1918)
  • The New Revelation (1918)
  • The Horror of the Heights (1918)
  • The Vital Message (1919)
  • Tales of Terror & Mystery (1923)
  • The Black Doctor and Other Tales of Terror and Mystery (1925)
  • The Dealings of Captain Sharkey (1925)
  • The Man from Archangel and Other Tales of Adventure (1925)
  • The History of Spiritualism (1926)
  • The Maracot Deep (1929)


Arthur Conan Doyle wrote primarily within the mystery and
detective fiction genres, however he also wrote non-fiction in later years.