Arthur Conan Doyle and the Consumption Cure

Date: 11 February 2010
Time: 4:00 - 5:00pm
Venue: Room 150, Main Building, The University of Hong Kong

Arthur Conan Doyle and the Consumption Cure by Prof Douglas Kerr (School of English, The University of Hong Kong)

seminar poster In November 1890 it was reported that the celebrated bacteriologist Robert Koch had discovered a cure for consumption (tuberculosis). Hundreds of people from all over the world flocked to Berlin - scientists, physicians, journalists, and also patients, some of them in such advanced stages of disease that they died in the train. They had come to see a demonstration of the cure, and perhaps to obtain some of Koch's apparently miraculous tuberculin lymph. Among those who hurried to Berlin was Arthur Conan Doyle, a young physician in general practice in the English provinces, who had recently written the first two stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes. He was to return to England, he said later, "a changed man". In this paper, Conan Doyle's various accounts of the episode are scrutinized for what they show about his understanding of, and participation in, the discourses and professions of science and of letters, the kinds of knowledge they produce, and the sorts of responsibilities they entail. His Berlin "adventure" was to be a crucial moment in the formation of Conan Doyle as man of letters.

(in collaboration with the History Research Seminar)