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Sherlock Holmes

chair-jpgI read the first Sherlock Holmes story, titled “A Study in Scarlet”. Throughout this story, there are many different techniques used to help scientifically. Holmes is described as almost mad, and an outsider. Holmes is found attempting to discover a reactant with Hemoglobin, or blood.  He is very well studied in science, chemistry and biology. During the story, a murder mystery unfolds and is subsequently solved by Holmes. His very careful observation, logic, and tools such as the magnifying glass are used.

In follow up, I read an article from a Scientific American blog; “Why you should envy, but not worship Sherlock Holmes”. This article discussed the thought process of Sherlock Holmes paired with some outside research and a semi psycho analysis of Holmes. It discusses how Sherlock seems to escape cognitive bias. According to the article, Cognitive Bias is a subconscious process in which our perception is influenced by what we want to see or think. There are over 100 types of cognitive bias. Holmes’ ability to intercept that bias can lead to his “out of the box” thinking methods.

It was very interesting to see Sherlock Holmes described as “a brilliant thinker with nothing to do, so he spends his time aiding Scotland Yard”. This statement seems to degrade the profession of sleuthing. This may have been the societal view at that time, thinking that “detectives” were either silly or unfounded. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many factors could have played on this belief. Religion still had considerable power in discrediting science. Science and technology were still new and radical. Often these new inventions or discoveries were not trusted because of a general lack of scientific understanding/fear of the unknown from the public. Sometimes, with the strong hand of religious influence, science was even denounced as witchcraft. Today, detective work is an admirable occupation because of the general respect and credibility developed in this field. It is works like Sherlock Holmes that popularized detectives and their work.



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