Who invented the polilight forensic lamp examination

Joseph Bell

Dr. Joseph Bell (* December 2, 1837; † October 4, 1911) was a Scottish pioneer of forensics, a surgeon and pediatrician and military doctor. He was employed at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh in the 19th century and is considered a role model in the character drawing of the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes.

Bell worked there from 1874 to 1901 as a surgeon and lecturer and surprised the students there in his popular readings with his astonishing ability to draw conclusions that he can say "at a glance what ailments the patient was suffering from and where he came from" . In Arthur Conan Doyle's second year of study in 1877, he tried to find an assistant to his great role model and got to know Bell's scientific work, the strictly rational way of thinking and the method of deduction, i.e. the conclusion from the general to the particular, which would later also characterize Holmes. Conan Doyle obviously identified himself with Dr. Watson.

Through Dr. Joseph Bell's pioneering work in forensics related to the reading and analysis of traces of powder, blood and fingerprints as well as the interpretation of handwriting and was given a number of times by Scotland Yard to help and investigated, among other things, against Jack the Ripper. The case of Elizabeth Chantrelle, who died of a gas connection according to Yard, is also recorded. Ultimately, Dr. Bell found traces of opium on her nightgown and convicted her husband of killing her. Joseph Bell's wish was, just like his literary double, to solve crimes through scientific investigation. His enthusiasm for his literary double was limited, however, and after increased publicity, Arthur Conan Doyle's works were interviewed in the London Times, in which they called him "Sherlock".


Arthur Conan Doyle's autobiographical work "memories and adventures" states:

I felt now that I was capable of something fresher and crisper and more workmanlike [than many of the detective stories that had been written up to that time]. Gaboriau had rather attracted me by the neat dovetailing of his plots, and Poe’s masterful detective, M. Dupin, had from boyhood been one of my heroes. But could I bring an addition of my won? I thought of my old teacher Joe Bell, of his eagle face, of his curious ways of his eerie trick of spotting details. If he were a detective he would surely reduce this fascinating business to something nearer an exact science. I would try it if I could get this effect. It was surely possible in real life, so why should I not make it plausible in fiction? It is all very well to say that a man is clever, but the reader wants to see examples of it - such examples as Bell gave us every day in the wards.

In a letter dated May 4, 1892, Doyle wrote to Dr. Bell:

It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes, and though in the stories I have the advantage of being able to place [the detective] in all sorts of dramatic positions, I do not think that his analytical work is in the least an exaggeration of some effects which I have seen you produce in the out-patient ward. Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I heard you inculate I have tried to build up a man who pushed the things as far as it would go - further occasionally - and I am so glad that the result has satisfied you, who are the critic with the most right to be severe.

Bell replied with: "You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it."

Joseph Bell printed

Filmed Joseph Bell