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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
NI chemist honours Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson - Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
Super-sleuth Sherlock solved crimes with forensic chemistry
A Belfast teacher is to present the fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes with a Royal Society of Chemistry honorary fellowship.

Dr John Watson, a part-time teacher at Belfast Royal Academy, is to make the presentation at the Holmes statue at London's Baker Street Tube station along with the chief executive of the society, on Wednesday morning.

He was asked to present the award on the 100th anniversary of novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's knighthood because he is the only member of the society who has the name of Holmes' partner in the stories.

Usually such honours are reserved for Nobel Laureates and other distinguished academics and industrialists - Holmes is the first fictional character to receive the fellowship.


A hundred and twenty years ago he was ahead of his time, using forensic science and analytical chemistry

Dr John Watson

But the society decided to celebrate the importance of Sir Arthur's character in leading the way, albeit fictionally, in using science and rational thinking to combat crime.

A silver medal is also to be struck in Holmes' name.

Dr Watson, a fellow of the society, said he realised the event would be rather odd and that they would have to remove the fellowship medal on a deerstalker hat shortly after the presentation.

But he said could understand why the society wanted to honour Holmes.

"A hundred and twenty years ago he was ahead of his time, using forensic science and analytical chemistry. He also had great personal integrity," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

The presentation will also mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of Doyle's most famous Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Dr Watson admitted: "I have to say I'm not a great reader of fiction. Most of the books I read are technical books."

Elemental detection

But he said he admired Conan Doyle's creativity in devising Holmes's "elemental" detection methods.

"In A Study in Scarlet he was working on an infallible test for blood stains and in the Naval Treaty he applies a test to see whether some poor creature has been the subject of chicanery.

"If the test paper went blue it was fine and if the test paper turned red the poor fellow was doomed.

"Arsenic poisoning was quite rife in Victorian times. And there was a wonderful test derived - the Marsh test - that was the nail in the coffin for many murderers because it was so simple and could be applied very quickly by the police."

Inspired by teacher

Sir Arthur based the character of Holmes on his own teacher at medical school in Edinburgh, a Dr Joseph Bell.

Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Dr David Giachardi said: "Of course Sherlock Holmes did not exist.

"Nevertheless the value of the Holmes legend today, and in previous decades, is profound, having bought tangible moral benefits to society."

Dr Giachardi added: "His creator was honoured by Queen Victoria in 1902 after the hound was tracked down.

"Now, a hundred years on in 2002 we are stretching the rules slightly, tongue very slightly in cheek, to say to the world - here was a great man who selflessly pursued bad people on behalf of the good, using science, courage and crystal clear thought processes to achieve his goals."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Dr John Watson:
"He was ahead of his time and had great personal integrity"
The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"The scientific approach Holmes applied foresaw the real thing"
See also:

06 Dec 99 | Scotland
02 Aug 01 | Entertainment
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
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