Monday, May 22, 2006

147 Candles Add Up to a Bonfire

I was rather caught off-guard this morning, when I clicked over to Google and found this artwork at the top of the page. Google is known for its special-occasion illustrated headings, but it took me a few seconds to realize the significance of this particular one. All evidence points to there being a Sherlock Holmes fan in residence at that Brobdingnagian Internet search engine--and one pretty well versed in crime-fiction history, to boot. After all, how many regular folk happened to know that today was the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scottish-born doctor-turned-author who, in 1887, first introduced the world to fictional detective Holmes and his remarkably faithful sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, in the novel A Study in Scarlet (originally titled A Tangled Skein)?

Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, to Irish parents, on May 22, 1859. He died of a heart attack on July 7, 1930, in the small town of Crowborough, in Sussex, England. In between, he worked as an ophthalmologist, took a voyage on an Arctic whaler, popularized skiing in Switzerland, did a stint as a doctor in the Second Boer War, stood twice (unsuccessfully) for election to the British Parliament, invented safety aids for use in World War I, tried to prove the existence of fairies, and incidentally created the best-known private investigator (and part-time cocaine addict) in fiction--a character he came to despise so much, that he tried to kill him off at Reichenbach Falls, in Meiringen, Switzerland. But Holmes’ fans refused to accept this death, and wrote so many letters to Conan Doyle, that the novelist finally relented and brought Sherlock back to life. The creation ultimately outlived the creator.

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