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The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensicsby James Obrien
Synopses & Reviews
One of the most popular and widely known characters in all of fiction, Sherlock Holmes has an enduring appeal based largely on his uncanny ability to make the most remarkable deductions from the most mundane facts. The very first words that Sherlock Holmes ever says to Dr. Watson are, "How are you? You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." Watson responds, "How on earth did you know that?" And so a crime-solving legend is born.
In The Scientific Sherlock Holmes, James O'Brien provides an in-depth look at Holmes's use of science in his investigations. Indeed, one reason for Holmes's appeal is his frequent use of the scientific method and the vast scientific knowledge which he drew upon to solve mysteries. For instance, in heart of the book, the author reveals that Holmes was a pioneer of forensic science, making use of fingerprinting well before Scotland Yard itself had adopted the method. One of the more appealing aspects of the book is how the author includes real-world background on topics such as handwriting analysis, describing how it was used to capture the New York Zodiac killer and to clinch the case against the Lindbergh baby kidnapper.
Sherlock Holmes was knowledgeable about several sciences, most notably chemistry. Therefore the book takes a close look at Holmes the chemist and discusses, for example, chemical poisons such as carbon monoxide, chloroform, and Prussic acid (the historical name for hydrogen cyanide). The author also debunks Isaac Asimov's famous assertion that Holmes was a blundering chemist. In addition, the book discusses mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy, meteorology, and geology, always in the context of Holmes's exploits.
Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate millions of readers and movie goers alike. The Scientific Sherlock Holmes is a must-read for the legion of fans of this most beloved of all fictional detectives.
"O'Brien, emeritus distinguished professor of chemistry at Missouri State University, delves deep into the science behind Sherlock Holmes in this brief and engaging volume. The book is clearly aimed at Holmes aficionados — each of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 60 stories featuring the detective are referenced via accepted Holmesian shorthand (e.g., 'ABBE' for 'The Abbey Grange') — yet the author treats his subject and his associates (Doctor Watson, the long-suffering Mrs. Hudson, and Holmes's bÃªte noir, Professor Moriarty) with obvious affection, and it's catching — his journey into Sherlockian science is both endearing and informative. O'Brien discusses Holmes's investigative acumen according to categories of evidence (e.g., finger- and footprints, hand- and typewritten documents) and provides interesting real-life examples of crimes solved with similar techniques, such as the New York Zodiac killings and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. O'Brien, a loyal fellow test-tuber, devotes significant energy to defending Holmes against criticisms that he was a sorry chemist, and while the asides are interesting, the intensely detailed science behind the apologia might turn off casual readers. Nevertheless, the scientific rigor with which both scribe and subject approach their tasks is abundantly evident. Illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
James O'Brien is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Missouri State University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Meet Sherlock Holmes
Chapter 3. Sherlock Holmes, Pioneer in Forensic Science
Chaptr 4. Mathematics
Chapter 5. Physics
Chapter 6. Biology
Chapter 7. Chemistry
Chapter 8. Other Sciences
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