Joseph Bell

Joseph Bell is considered a pioneer in forensic pathology.  He was one of the first scientists to put an emphasis on close observation, claiming that was the key to forensics.  Bell attended University of Edinburgh.  He worked at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, where he started the first training course for nurses in all of Scotland.  Bell served as the personal surgeon to Queen Victoria whenever she visited Scotland.  His other honors include being a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, a Justice of the Peace, and a Deputy Lieutenant.


Bell is best known for providing the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world-famous character, Sherlock Holmes.  Conan Doyle met Bell at University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1877.  He was studying to become a doctor, and Bell was his professor.  Conan Doyle was mesmerized, as were many, by Bell’s ability to tell patients their habits, occupations, nationalities, and even their names, based on observation alone.


According to legend, Bell put his keen observation skills to use in the case of Jack the Ripper.  Bell and his friend, Professor Henry Littlejohn, analyzed the killings and determined who was behind them.  They put the name of the killer in an envelope and gave it to the Edinburgh police.  The police sent the envelope to London, where the crimes occurred.  The contents of the envelope were never made public, but supposedly, seven days after Bell and Littlejohn named the killer, the murders stopped for good.