Interesting facts about Sherlock Holmes

Find out about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's popular character.


by Lorna White |

Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, is surely the nation's favourite detective – but how much do we really know about him?

Did he ever say ‘elementary’? Why did Doyle think about killing him off? Which Royal was a huge fan of his super-sleuthing exploits?

Here are the fun facts any Holmes fan needs to know...

1. Sherlock was called Sherrinford

Originally Sir Arthur Conan Doyle named the sleuth Sherrinford but changed his mind – perhaps because there were well-known Nottingham cricketers called Sherwin and Shacklock and the author was a big fan of the sport.

2. John Watson was nearly called Ormand Stacker

There are notes in the Museum of London that suggest both characters might have had very different names.

3. Holmes was inspired by a teacher

Conan Doyle was so impressed by Dr Joseph Bell, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, who could diagnose patients on sight, that he based Sherlock’s skills of perception on him.

4. A Study in Scarlet wasn’t popular

His first adventure was rejected by several publishers and printed in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, which was not a success.

5. Sherlock Holmes is the most popular film character

…or at least, the most popular human character! He’s been in 226 films while Dracula has been in 239!

6. And he’s been on film for more than 100 years

With the first silent version – Sherlock Holmes Baffled – made in 1900.

7. Sherlock never says ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’

It feels like everything we know is a lie! While the detective says ‘elementary’ and ‘my dear Watson’ several times, he never puts the two together.

8. Mycroft Holmes is only in two stories

Although he’s often given a bigger role in TV shows and films, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft actually only appears in The Greek Interpreter and The Bruce-Partington Plans.

9. Queen Victoria was a Sherlock fan

In the story The Bruce-Partington Plans, Sherlock is invited to Windsor to meet Queen Victoria in recognition of his services, and is presented with an emerald tiepin.

10. Conan Doyle tried to kill Sherlock Holmes because he was bored

After two years of writing the popular stories, the author was sick of the detective, and complained ‘it takes my mind from other things’.

11. Watson and Holmes win at chess

In the 1969 Oxford-Cambridge chess match, Oxford players called Watson and Holmes both won their games.

12. The Sherlock Holmes Museum isn’t at 221b Baker Street

It’s actually at number 239.

13. Sherlock’s IQ is 190

Or at least that’s what a man called John Radford estimates in his book The Intelligence of Sherlock Holmes and other Three-Pipe Problems. The average is between 100 and 110, while Einstein’s was 160.

14. Sherlock Holmes is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Yes, despite being a fictional character, the RSC offered him a fellowship in 2002, and presented his award to Dr John Watson (a real man who is also a fellow!) in front of the statue of Holmes outside Baker Street station.

15. The Speckled Band is the most popular Sherlock Holmes story

Not only was it Conan Doyle’s favourite, but it frequently tops reader polls.

If you can't get enough of Baker Street's best, here are some of the best Sherlock Holmes gifts you can treat yourself to:

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