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A study in white: medicine and crime according to Sherlock Holmes

Michele Lopez

Abstract


Sherlock Holmes is described by his biographer as being in possession of an “immense knowledge” of criminal history. He substantiates this claim by frequent casual references to particular criminal cases. Dr. William Palmer and Dr. Edward Pritchard, two infamous examples of “killer doctors”, are cited by the detective as typical specimens of what heights – or depths – a murderer can reach when he has the “nerve and knowledge” granted by a scientific medical training. We shall give a brief biographical sketch of these two illustrious gentlemen and we will show that Holmes’ fears are not without fundament – indeed, the medical profession has given more than its fair share of murderers. The scientific method of diagnostic medicine, which can be so useful in criminal detection, has proven to be very useful also to many a ruthless and cunning assassin. Holmes, who was ahead of his time in combining medical semeiotics and detective work, was also prophetic in pointing out how terrible a threat to society a criminal doctor can be.

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References


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Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952


Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo


Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca - Chiara Elefante - Richard Hillman - Stephen Knight - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche
Editorial Staff: 
Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi


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