On 8 October 2011 a bronze plaque was unveiled at the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh by the Japan Sherlock Holmes Club. The plaque commemorates the life of Dr Joseph Bell (1837-1911), whose last residence was at 2 Melville Crescent. The event marked the centenary of his death.
Dr Bell was a famous surgeon from Edinburgh in the 19th century, and a lecturer at the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh. He was also a pioneer in forensic science. However, Dr Bell is best known as the inspiration for the great detective Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was a medical student and met Dr Bell in 1877. Doyle served as a clerk for Dr Bell at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he witnessed Dr Bell's astute observational skills and powers of deduction that made him such a remarkable diagnostician. It was these abilities which Doyle studied and applied to his famous character during his quests to solve various mysteries.
During his career, Dr Bell also engaged in the practice of medical jurisprudence for the Crown. He participated in notable murder cases including 'Jack the Ripper'. Dr Bell's criminal investigations were dramatised, though much exaggerated, in the BBC television series Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes in 2000.
The link between Sherlock Holmes and Japan may be unfamiliar but there are a number of references to Japan in Sherlock Holmes stories. The most famous one is Baritsu, the Japanese style of wrestling, which saved Holmes from the duel against his archenemy, Professor Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes has long been very popular in Japan. In 1948 the Baritsu Chapter was founded in Tokyo and in 1953 it erected the first ever plaque to commemorate the great detective in London. The Japan Sherlock Holmes Club was founded in 1977 and it has become one of the largest Sherlock Holmes societies in the world.
The ceremony to unveil the plaque was jointly held by the Consulate General and the Japan Sherlock Holmes Club, and was attended by representatives of various Sherlock Holmes societies both from Britain and Japan.
I hope that the plaque will immortalise this remarkable Edinburgh surgeon, Dr Joseph Bell, and Japan's Scottish connection with Sherlock Holmes.