By Kevin Martin.
Everybody has a favorite teacher. Artie Doyle had a favorite teacher. Artie was a first year medical school student whose favorite teacher was professor Bell. Dr. Bell must have been a fascinating instructor because Artie remembered him for the rest of his life. The thing that made Dr. Bell so interesting was the way he taught. It was so special that he kept the students on the edge of their seats.
Joseph Bell had started at the bottom as a hospital attendant and wound up head of the Edinburgh University medical school. If you knew Dr. Bell, you’d say he made it because he knew HOW to think. That’s what he was always telling his students: You’ve got to know HOW to think or all you know won’t get you anywhere. Dr. Bell used to demonstrate this to his students. He had an outpatient facility where he interviewed patients and sometimes invited his class to join him there where they could observe his methods in action.
He would examine a patient and say something like, “Oh, you’re a cork cutter or a slater”! The patient was startled and acknowledged that he was. Dr. Bell had observed a slight callus on the outside on one side of the forefinger and a little thickening on the outside of the thumb. For observant Bell that was enough to identify the trade of his patient. Dr. Bell did this time and again with patient after patient.
Now, you may say this doesn’t sound much like medicine. But what Dr. Bell was trying to impress upon his students . . . what he was trying to cultivate in them . . . was the power of observation. A good Dr. must notice EVERYTHING! And to Dr. Bell’s students, something else was obvious . . . that for Dr. Bell, medicine was sort of, well . . . detective work. It’s not a matter of coincidence that complicated mystery stories also fascinated him.
Artie was spellbound and enraptured with Dr. Bells teachings. So much so that he would go on to become a doctor. His secondary career happened to be that of a writer. The medical training he received was significant but his professor’s power of inductive reasoning was even more so. Artie immortalized Dr. Bell and his teachings in a character the world can never forget. Because one day Artie became Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And the legendary character he wrote about was . . . Sherlock Holmes!
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