The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics

Hardcover | January 16, 2013

byJames OBrien

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One of the most popular and widely known characters in all of fiction, Sherlock Holmes has an enduring appeal based largely on his uncanny ability to make the most remarkable deductions from the most mundane facts. The very first words that Sherlock Holmes ever says to Dr. Watson are, "How areyou? You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." Watson responds, "How on earth did you know that?" And so a crime-solving legend is born. In The Scientific Sherlock Holmes, James O'Brien provides an in-depth look at Holmes's use of science in his investigations. Indeed, one reason for Holmes's appeal is his frequent use of the scientific method and the vast scientific knowledge which he drew upon to solve mysteries. For instance, inheart of the book, the author reveals that Holmes was a pioneer of forensic science, making use of fingerprinting well before Scotland Yard itself had adopted the method. One of the more appealing aspects of the book is how the author includes real-world background on topics such as handwritinganalysis, describing how it was used to capture the New York Zodiac killer and to clinch the case against the Lindbergh baby kidnapper.Sherlock Holmes was knowledgeable about several sciences, most notably chemistry. Therefore the book takes a close look at Holmes the chemist and discusses, for example, chemical poisons such as carbon monoxide, chloroform, and Prussic acid (the historical name for hydrogen cyanide). The author alsodebunks Isaac Asimov's famous assertion that Holmes was a blundering chemist. In addition, the book discusses mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy, meteorology, and geology, always in the context of Holmes's exploits. Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate millions of readers and movie goers alike. The Scientific Sherlock Holmes is a must-read for the legion of fans of this most beloved of all fictional detectives.

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From the Publisher

One of the most popular and widely known characters in all of fiction, Sherlock Holmes has an enduring appeal based largely on his uncanny ability to make the most remarkable deductions from the most mundane facts. The very first words that Sherlock Holmes ever says to Dr. Watson are, "How areyou? You have been in Afghanistan, I percei...

James O'Brien is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Missouri State University.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 16, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199794960

ISBN - 13:9780199794966

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Customer Reviews of The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from For True Sherlock Holmes Fans In this small book (155 pages of main text), the author covers a lot of territory. Through five chapters, he discusses the origins of Sherlock Holmes, the main characters in the stories, forensic science and Holmes’s use of it, Holmes and chemistry and, finally, Holmes and his use of other sciences. The text is extensively referenced in the sense that (i) individual stories are frequently referred to when pertinent to a particular discussion and (ii) works of other Holmesian scholars are frequently mentioned, as necessary. Although I am an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, I must admit that I was not aware that there were so many serious studies of the stories, of the characters, and of what Doyle had in mind when he wrote his stories. The author is clearly a serious student of Sherlock Holmes stories. He writes his book with a passion that really stands out. I found his prose to be clear, friendly, detailed, lively and quite captivating. This book should be of particular interest to Sherlock Holmes fans, especially those with a passion for forensic science and its history.
Date published: 2013-01-11

Extra Content

Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Meet Sherlock Holmes3. Sherlock Holmes, Pioneer of Forensic Science4. Mathematics5. Physics6. Biology7. Chemistry8. Other SciencesAppendix