Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Doyle’s were a prosperous Irish-Catholic family, who had a prominent position in the world of Art. Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur’s father, a chronic alcoholic, was the only member of his family, who apart from fathering a brilliant son, never accomplished anything of note. At the age of twenty-two, Charles had married Mary Foley, a vivacious and very well-educated young woman of seventeen. Mary Doyle loved literature and was a very good storyteller which she imparted to his son.
From the age of nine, Arthur was sent to boarding school in England for his education. His time there was unhappy as he hated the bigotry and corporal punishment that was part of the climate. At seventeen he graduated and returned home where he helped commit his father, who was clearly unbalanced. Family tradition would have dictated the pursuit of an artistic career, yet Arthur decided to follow a medical one. This decision was influenced by Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, a young lodger his mother had taken-in to make ends meet. Dr. Waller had trained in the University of Edinburgh and that is where Arthur was sent to carry out his medical studies. He met many fine authors (James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson) while studying, but the man who made the biggest impact was Dr. Joseph Bell, a man who used all of his talents–deduction, logic and diagnosis. These qualities would eventually be found in Sherlock Holmes.
He worked very hard. During the next years, the young man divided his time between trying to be a good doctor and struggling to become a recognized author. In August of 1885, he found the time to marry a young woman called Louisa Hawkins. He described her in his memoirs as having been “gentle and amiable.”
In March 1886, Conan Doyle started writing the novel which catapulted him to fame. At first it was named A Tangled Skein and the two main characters were called Sheridan Hope and Ormond Sacker. Two years later this novel was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, under the title A Study in Scarlet which introduced us to the immortal Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. This marked the start of a serious dichotomy in the author’s life. Sherlock Holmes, who very quickly became world-famous was a commercial success, but Conan Doyle wanted to be considered a serious author. Thankfully for us he continued his Sherlock Holmes series which continues to be popular.