Arthur at 14 holding
a cricket bat


The medical school graduate
at 22

By this time, Charles Doyle had lost his job, and the family had difficulty paying the school fees. A lodger named Bryan Charles Waller became the familyÕs protector, eventually supporting Mary, Charles, and their children completely.

Dr. Joseph Bell

Once at university, Conan Doyle found the work difficult and boring. He gained more amusement from playing sports, at which he excelled, than in listening to lectures in large, crowded lecture halls. More interesting than studying was describing his instructorsÕ eccentric personalities. Among his teachers was the man Conan Doyle later acknowledged as his inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell taught his students the importance of observation, using all the senses to obtain an accurate diagnosis. He enjoyed impressing students by guessing a personÕs profession from a few indications, through a combination of deductive and inductive reasoning, like Holmes. Although BellÕs methods fascinated Conan Doyle, his cold indifference towards his patients repelled the young medical student. Some of this coldness found its way into Sherlock HolmesÕs character, especially in the early stories.

Around the time he obtained his medical degree, Conan DoyleÕs crisis of faith, which had been brewing since his days with the Jesuits, came to a head. He announced to his uncles that he had turned away from organized religion, shocking them deeply and causing them to withdraw their support. Because he refused to practice his familyÕs religion, Conan Doyle was forced to make own way in the medical profession, with neither financial help nor letters of introduction to influential people. He was an uneasy agnostic, however, and although he hoped that pure rationalism could take the place of religion for him, it never did. Around 1880, he began to attend s?ances, and by the end of his life he had become an ardent spiritualist.

A restless man who loved adventure and physical activity, Conan Doyle took any opportunity to travel. He grew interested in photography and published several articles about it. To make a few extra pounds while studying medicine, he hired on as shipÕs doctor on brief voyages to the Antarctic and Africa. He also began to write short stories for sale, based on the adventure tales he had loved as a child and on his own first-hand experiences. After graduation, he struggled to establish a medical practice, since he could not afford to buy one. Although hampered by poverty and his lack of social connections, Conan Doyle achieved a modest success in medicine. His 1885 marriage to Louise Hawkins, the sister of a patient who had died, provided him with a small supplemental income that raised his standard of living.

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