The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics
October 7th, 2015 by Aldouspi

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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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199794960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199794966
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.7 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces

Customer Reviews

The Ultimate Sherlock Sleuth Reference

One person found this helpful.
 on August 24, 2013
By Marianne ZC
The information in this book is smartly organized and thoroughly sits by my reading chair at all times. It has all the answers to "What would Sherlock do" and "How would he do it." I see so much more in Doyle's stories after having studied this book. I can't watch a Sherlock episode or read a Sherlock story any longer without refering to this book...what a great addition to the pleasure of knowing Sherlock Holmes! Thank you James O'Brien.


One person found this helpful.
 on October 28, 2013
By Eric Tague
This book was written by a former chemistry faculty member at Missouri State University, and contains a great analysis of the science used by Doyle and Holmes. It is an easy and enlightening read for anyone who admires the holmes books for the science used.

Holmes and forensic techniques

One person found this helpful.
 on December 12, 2012
By spamdump
This is a fun, fast paced book for readers with an interest in Sherlock Holmes or in the use of forensics in crime solving generally. The author makes a point of drawing in real life examples to highlight the use of these techniques, which livens up the story considerably – from the O.J. Simpson case to the theft of the Mona Lisa, which contributed to the unsuccessful denouement of a competing early approach to systematic evidence gathering. As is appropriate for failed analyses the author quickly dispatches of this precursor to Holmes’ more successful methods and goes on to provide a well researched, concise and friendly treatment of an angle of the Holmes stories that is somewhat overlooked. The lasting impression is that Holmes (whether by luck or the author’s design) was ultimately on the right side with many of the techniques he employed, usually far in advance of formal adaptation by Scotland Yard or the FBI. The author also drops in numerous little facts about the stories themselves and how they fit in to the entire body of work.

Good read, the science is enlightening

 on February 16, 2015
By hiker
4 stars for logical conclusions supported by experts and fans of Holmes alike. This book added to my enjoyment of one of my favorite collection.

Sherlock and his methods explained

 on July 22, 2013
By T. F. Hanratty
For any scientific-minded reader. A must for Sherlockians, but important and entertaining for anyone else. From philosophy to brain chemistry and forensic science, this book explains the methods that made Holmes the great sleuth he was.

enjoyed it

 on February 12, 2014
By Margarita Aguila
Nice look into everything Holmes. This book is for everyone, no background on science needed. Just sit back and enjoy.

Five Stars

 on January 18, 2015
By David Salvatore

Enjoyable Reading

2 people found this helpful.
 on January 10, 2013
By Donald K. Back
As a physician with a science background, I enjoyed reading James O'Brien "The Scientific Sherlock Holmes." It is well written and I like the way the writer explains in detail the history and basis of the methods that Sherlock Holmes uses in his investigation s of crimes. With this book in mind, I am now rereading the complete works of Sherlock Holmes. Donald K. Back, M.D.

good addition to my Holmes collection

 on January 28, 2013
By open-minded
I don't think I have read all of the stories Holmes stories yet but this edition is sure adding to my continued interest.

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