On May 22, 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born to an affluent, strict Irish Catholic family in Edinburgh, Scotland. Although Doyle’s family was well respected in the art world, his father, Charles, who was a life-long alcoholic, had few accomplishments to speak of. Doyle’s mother, Mary, was a lively and well-educated woman who loved to read. She particularly delighted in telling her young son outlandish stories. Her great enthusiasm and animation while spinning
wild tales sparked the child’s imagination.
When Doyle graduated from Stonyhurst College in 1876, his parents expected that he would follow in his family’s footsteps and study art, so they were surprised when he decided to pursue a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh instead. At med school, Doyle met his mentor, Professor Dr. Joseph Bell, whose keen powers of observation would later inspire Doyle to create his famed fictional detective character, Sherlock Holmes. At the University of Edinburgh, Doyle also had the good fortune to meet classmates and future fellow authors James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson. While a medical student, Doyle took his own first stab at writing, with a short story called The Mystery of Sasassa Valley. That was followed by a second story, The American Tale, which was published in London Society.
In 1880, Doyle returned to medical school. Back at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle became increasingly invested in Spiritualism or “Psychic religion,” a belief system that he would later attempt
to spread through a series of his written works. By the time he received his Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1881, Doyle had denounced his Roman Catholic faith.
Doyle continued to actively participate in the Spiritualist movement from 1887 to 1916, during which time he wrote three books that experts consider largely autobiographical. These include Beyond the City, The Stark Munro Letters
and A Duet with an Occasional Chorus. Upon achieving success as a writer, Doyle decided to retire from medicine. Throughout this period, he additionally produced a handful of historical novels including one about the Napoleonic Era called The Great Shadow in 1892, and his most famous historical novel, Rodney Stone, in 1896.
Rising one last time on July 7, 1930, Doyle collapsed and died in his garden while clutching his heart with one hand and holding a flower in the other.
Until tomorrow: The best way to predict the future is to create it.
Dorothy Prats / [email protected]