Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick John Watson was based on a Dundee doctor, according to academics in the US


SHERLOCK Holmes’ sleuthing sidekick Dr Watson was based on a Dundee osteopath, according to an American academic.

William Smith, who opened his practice in the city in 1910, studied medicine with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Edinburgh University.

The claim that Smith inspired the character of Dr John H Watson was made at a conference of the Scottish Osteopathic Society in Aberdeen earlier this month.

According to academics Dr Watson was based on William Smith (pictured) from Dundee.

A newspaper article written by Smith’s son, Cuthbert, stated that Holmes’ companion was based on his father.

Cuthbert Smith, writing in Iowa paper the Des Moines Sunday Register in 1938, stated:  “The detective’s companion Watson was my father William Smith.

“The character of Watson was written around my father but it was merely a friendly gesture on Doyle’s part.”

Cuthbert Smith who made the claims in Iowa paper, the Des Moines Sunday Register.

William Smith and Doyle also studied medicine in the 1880s with Joseph Bell, whose remarkable intuition as a doctor is said to have inspired the Holmes character.

Cuthbert went on to tell readers that as a child his father had taken him to meet Doyle and Bell in Edinburgh – a rare moment where the characters and their author were together.

Cuthbert Smith added in his article that the choice of his father as the inspiration for Watson “was not based on any personal merits connected with the remarkable character of the stories of Joseph [Bell]”.

William Smith died of pneumonia in 1912 – just two years after opening his practice.

The article was revealed to the conference by Jason Haxton, curator of the American Museum of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri.

While Watson was inspired by the Dundee doctor he got his name from another friend of the author – a Dr John Watson from Southsea.

There is also evidence from A Study in Scarlet, Doyle’s first story to feature Homes, that Surgeon-Major Alexander Francis Preston may have been the model for Watson based on similar experiences in the Afghan war.