Joseph Bell is probably best known as the model for Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle worked as Bell’s clerk at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where he witnessed his use of close observation in making a diagnosis. Conan Doyle went on to base Holmes’ deductive powers on the observational skills displayed by Bell. It was a source of pride to him that he had inspired the character.

This letter is from Joseph Bell to William Wood, a successful Edinburgh medical practitioner and a lecturer on Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Wood had referred a patient to Bell and Bell writes:

You will not be surprised to hear that I could not pass your patient.

His breathlessness and puffiness of tissue and his sudden fatness pointed[?]at albumen in his urine…Take him in hand. Knock off his liquor and put him on a diet - milk and potash? And he will possibly make a good recovery.


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