Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | 1859-1930

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902, there was some speculation that the honor was bestowed to recognize his achievement in The Hound of the Baskervilles. But the more seemly prelude was his pamphlet, The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct, in which he sought to explain the British position in the Boer War. Today it is surely Sherlock Holmes for which Conan Doyle is best known. Holmes was an immensely popular creation during Conan Doyle's lifetime, also -- too popular for the author, who wanted his name associated more closely with his other works. Conan Doyle wrote several volumes about the Great War between 1914 and 1920; from 1918 on, he became a self-styled authority and promoter of spiritualism, not only writing about it but also opening a spiritualist bookshop and museum. In 1922, Conan Doyle was one of the most public advocates of the spirit world in the Cottingley fairy photograph scandal (the magician Houdini was one of the well-known detractors, and their difference on this matter, in which Conan Doyle was eventually held up for public ridicule, caused a break in the friendship of the two men). As for his literary output, Conan Doyle preferred his historical romances, with their chivalric adventures and careful historical detail, to his detective fiction, although at least one of his Sherlock Holmes stories, The Sign of the Four, has some of the elements of the adventure story for boys, with its recollection of the bloody Indian Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. Among the most notable of his historical adventures are The White Company (1891) and Sir Nigel (1906). Conan Doyle, trained in medicine and with a sharp eye for scientific and logical plausibility, also wrote a number of science fiction stories. The character Professor Challenger of 1912's The Lost World, about living remnants of the prehistoric world, did not match Holmes in popularity, but he did inspire a large following himself, and he appeared again in other science fiction adventures, including The Poison Belt in 1913, and a collection of stories published posthumously in 1952. Upon his death in 1930, Conan Doyle left his family with the conviction that he would surely communicate with them from the spirit world which he held so dear.