A Doctor Enjoys Sherlock Holmes - Edward J. Van Liere Found as an online-read here at the Hathi Trust Digital Library.[I was looking for another Sherlock Holmes essay entirely and stumbled on this page (Van Liere's book is the second on the list). When my next search lead me to (this page) and then Van Liere's book again, I decided I should stop and read.]This is a 1959 book of essays about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but looking at the details of the stories specifically through the eyes of the author, Edward J. Van Liere, who was a doctor and (as he states) "professional physiologist"(who as of March 2013 isn't in wikipedia, in case you're wondering why I have no as-usual-link to it). According to the notes at the start of the book, several of these essays have been printed in various medical journals.The essays are short, and at worst are simply a listing of anecdotes that fall under a particular topic, and there's also some repetition in the stories cited. The best writing is found when Van Liere is expressing an opinion, telling a related story, or expounding on a particular fact that interests him. To enjoy these essays it will help to have a good knowledge of all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, since the context won't always help you understand all of the references.Contents:Doctor Watson and the Weather- Many, many quotes of Doyle's weather descriptions. Reading them all together made me enjoy Doyle's ability to set a scene in a few words, but also made me fidgety and want to read the entire stories again.- Am now imagining a day of the Weather Channel where everyone would have to dress in Holmes-period costume and only speak of the weather in this language. I would watch.- p. 14: "People living in the Victorian era, just like many of us today, were interested in barometric pressure."- I like how Van Liere speaks of Watson as if he exists, p. 16"...Further, and more important, a man with Watson's imagination did not have to rely on such a mundane topic as the weather to lengthen his stories."The Anatomical Sherlock Holmes- Specifically dissections, bones, fossils, anthropology, etc.- These seem to be mostly in a small amount of stories - well, at least compared to all the weather quotes. - Cited stories: Study in Scarlet, Adventure of the Cardboard Box, Five Orange Pips, Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place, The Yellow Face, The Three Garridebs, Hound of the Baskervilles- On medical students' pranks mentioned in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, p. 24:"...Indeed, many, many stories can be told about the behavior of medical students in the anatomy laboratory. A favorite minor prank, for example, is to cut off a finger or an ear and slip it into the pocket of an unsuspecting visitor. This bit of horseplay probably discourages future visits to the anatomical laboratory."- In Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place, p. 24:"...He [Holmes] explained to Watson that there were epithelial cells in the microscopic field. As far as I am aware, this is the only reference to individual body cells to be found in the tales. It appears, then, that Holmes was much more interested in gross structures of the body, especially osteology, than in microscopic structures.""Brain Fever" and Sherlock Holmes- Brain fever definitions at wikipedia - note that four Holmes stories are mentioned (as of March 1, 2013, anyway: The Naval Treaty, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual).- Reference to article in Journal of American Medical Association: "Brain Fever" by Louis Cassamajor (CXLIX (1952), 1443-46)- Cited stories: same as wikipedia, plus Hound of the Baskervilles, though it's not specified as brain fever, just fever.- p. 28-9; "...The condition presumably is caused by a virus. That a severe brain storm could cause the lurking virus to become active seems unlikely."Van Liere also notes that it could be possible that shock or "emotional storm" could lower resistance and make the patient susceptible to encephalitis (brain fever). He points out that hysteria "cannot entirely be ruled out."- p. 30:"Dr. Watson has been taken to task by some critics in the medical profession for using the term "brain fever," and the implication has been made that his employment of a meaningless term was unworthy of a medically trained man. Now it appears that this criticism is unjustified."Curare and Sherlock Holmes- Curare at wikipedia.- Cited stories: Study in Scarlet, Adventure of the Sussex Vampire- Noted that in Study in Scarlet "liberties" are taken with how curare is supposed to do act when swallowed (p. 31). On page 32:"The difficulty lies in the fact that curare is relatively harmless if taken by mouth. If extremely large doses are administered on an empty stomach, sufficient curare may be absorbed to cause grave symptoms, but death would not be instantaneous for absorption is slow from mucous surfaces. ...The action of curare is rapidly lethal only if injected directly into the blood stream."This is just the kind of thing that I'd hoped would be in this book! Bonus points for sharing the fact that having an ulcer would mean that the swallowed curare would absorb faster, and only in that situation death could be quicker.Sherlock Holmes and the Portuguese Man o' War- On wikipedia: "Despite its outward appearance, the Man o' War is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which differs from jellyfish in that it is not actually a single organism, but a colonial organism made up of many minute individuals called zooids. Each of these zooids is highly specialized, and, although structurally similar to other solitary animals, they are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival." [This has nothing to do with Holmes but I thought it was interesting, which was reason enough.]- Story cited: Adventure of the Lion's Mane, written by Holmes rather than Watson (Watson isn't present), and the jellyfish in this story is Cyanea capillata/Lion's Mane jellyfish- Problem is that the Lion's Mane jellyfish is not thought to be able to cause the death of a healthy individual - Van Liere feels the creature who's really to blame in this case is the Portuguese Man o' War- Citation: "Portuguese Man o' War Sting" by W. E. Klein and R. H. Bradshaw in Armed Forces Medical Journal (II, March 1951, 509-512); also "Medical Problems of an Underwater Demolition Team" by C. L. Waite in Armed Forces Medical Journal (II, Sept. 1951, 1317-26)[I'm being evil and not using the correct citation form because, internet researchers, I know you can manage that.]- Covers symptoms of Man o' War stings and treatment from the Klein and Bradshaw article. (I had no idea benadryl could be given intravenously.) Van Liere says that a purist might wonder if all the medications were necessary. Then considers what medical treatment would have been available in Holmes' day. (Yes, it's a What Would Dr. Watson Have Done moment.)Doctor Watson and Nervous Maladies- Stories cited: Scandal in Bohemia, The Reigate Puzzle, Adventure of the Beryl Coronet, The Musgrave Ritual, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, The Greek Interpreter, Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, Adventure of Wisteria Lodge, Hound of the Baskervilles, The Problem of Thor Bridge, The Five Orange Pips, The Gloria Scott - Holmes has "blackest depression" - but the cure for his "severe nervous breakdown" is a case to solve (The Reigate Puzzle)- Adventure of the Beryl Coronet: a distraught banker (Alexander Holden) pulls his hair and beats his head against the wall. Van Liere's assessment, p. 42-43 :"This highly respected citizen must have been an emotionally unstable person. One wonders how he could have been a successful banker, with such a sensitive nervous system."Van Liere notes that though we don't have any further history for Holden, he suspects the man developed hypertension or gastric ulcers.- The Greek Interpreter: St Vitus' Dance was in Van Liere's time called acute chorea- Discussion of various symptoms in the stories.Dogs and Sherlock Holmes- Stories Cited: Hound of the Baskervilles, Adventure of the Creeping Man, The Sign of Four, The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter - and many others, because Van Liere not only talks about actual dogs, but also, for instance, the dog-like qualities that Holmes has (bloodhound, etc.)- We are assured that Holmes and Watson didn't love dogs "in a sickly, sentimental sense but rather with a genuine, masculine affection." (p. 48) (I had to laugh at this.) But wait, here's another, p. 53:"Holmes and Watson were not sentimentalists, but virile, vigorous men of action - the type of men dogs like."And then goes on to tell of a dog mourning its master and then dying.The Botanical Doctor Watson- A Study in Scarlet: Quoting Watson's assessment of Holmes, p. 54"Knowledge of Botany - Variable. Well up on belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening."- Plant related things noticed by Watson vs. Holmes.- Lots of landscapes (plants and trees) described by Watson.- Refers to Anna Catherine Green's mystery, The House of Whispering Pines (Gutenberg link); Van Liere feels pine trees around a house creates a gloomy atmosphere, but admits it might be Green's book that has made him think this.The Surgical Doctor Watson- Notes various references to surgery, Holmes skill as "like a surgeon," scalp and head injuries- p. 63-64"...Another case is mentioned which surely must puzzle the layman (The Adventure of the Dancing Men). A bullet passed through the frontal portion of the brain. The reader is assured that, although the patient was unconscious, she would live. The medically trained person would think immediately of an accidental lobotomy.One is reminded in this connection of the skull of a workman exhibited in the museum of the Harvard Medical School. This rare specimen shows an enormous hole made by a tamping bar. The bar passed through the skull , and a considerable amount of brain substance was destroyed. Remarkably enough, the patient did not die from this terrific injury, but lived for a long time afterward - surely a most unusual case."I had to quote this just to link to the case of Phineas Gage, which is as remarkable as the doctor says.- The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb: Van Liere notes that Watson cleaned and bandaged the er, area where the thumb was, but there's no mention of stitches, and then goes on to hope that the wound healed properly without them. He also points out that even with this wound the engineer manages to accompany Holmes to the crime scene, which is not what someone with such a wound should have been allowed to do. (Tsk tsk, Dr. Watson!)- Silver Blaze: Weiss & Co. were makers of blade which injured the horse - same company still are "famous makers of knives" and Van Liere owns severalSherlock Holmes, The Chemist- Randomly a gasogene is mentioned as a familiar item in Holmes' living room.- On the blood test Holmes is conducting in Study in Scarlet, p. 70:"At this point a sour note can be injexted. Assuming that Holmes did discover a sensitive test for hemoglobin, it was nevertheless not a specific one for human blood. The blood of many animals contains hemoglobin. In the case of murder, for example, if blood were found on a cudgel, a knife, or on the clothing of a suspect, it would still have to be proved that it was human blood. This, incidentally, can now be scientifically shown, but it is a long, delicate procedure. "- Multiple cites of the foul smells given off by Holmes chemistry experiments.- Proposes that Homes wasn't just interested in applied research chemistry, but "pure or basic research too - in other words, research which has no immediate practical value." Examples in Adventure of the Copper Beeches and The Final Problem.- Yet another instance where Van Liere gives Holmes life outside the stories, after imagining him as a chemistry professor, p 76:"We are thankful that he [Holmes] did not choose an academic career, for then the delightful Sherlock Holmes stories never would have been written, and the world would be a less interesting place in which to live."Doctor Watson's Universal Specific- Brandy as a "therapeutic agent."- Led me to look up Medicinal brandy (Resuscitation. 2011 July; 82(7-2): 951–954.)Doctor Watson, Endocrinologist- Wikipedia: endocrinology- Cites The Adventure of the Creeping Man; real scientists working on rejeuvenation - Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, p. 86:"..."It is now recognized by modern endocrinologists that the distinguished Brown-Sequard had not controlled his experiments well. The testicular extracts he used were probably inactive....The concept that such a serum [the one in the Creeping Man] exists is, of course, rank nonsense. Even though the tale is incredible, I confess that I have always enjoyed reading it."Also notes that the Creeping Man story fits in the science-fiction genre.- Another rejuvenation story: Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton, science-fiction- Notes therapeutic uses of testosterone and progesterone.Genetics and Sherlock Holmes- Heredity and intellect, deduction skills - example, Sherlock and his brother Mycroft (The Greek Interpreter)- The Yellow Face: in the story the mother notes that her child - white mother and "negro" father - is darker than her father. Van Liere, p. 92: "This statement must be challenged. It appears incredible that a child born of a white mother could be darker than her Negro father. If the mother had some Negro blood, then by certain arrangements of genes this could have happened, but not otherwise. Dr. Watson doubtless is in error in this instance."It's been decades since my last biology class, but if the father had darker relatives in current or previous generations of his family, I would think that the scenario would be genetically possible. Or I might just be assuming something negative about race and a book from 1959.- Adventure of the Cardboard Box: hereditary similarity of ear shapes in family members- Hound of the Baskervilles: a portrait shows facial features and family similarity- Random Robert Louis Stevenson quote, p. 94: "It has been a source of perpetual mystification to me where all the disagreeable medical students go, and all the admirable doctors come from."I would love to know where this quote comes from - so far no luck with googling it.The Zoological Doctor Watson- Noting references to wide variety of animals, insects, etc.; both actual and as metaphors.Doctor Watson, Cardiologist- References to "diseases of the heart or circulation."- Sign of the Four has a description of sudden cardiac death (Marsten's). Van Liere's thoughts, p. 102-103:"...One is reminded of John Hunter, the famous English anatomist, who in later life suffered from severe angina pectoris. He is reputed to have said that he was at the mercy of any rascal who saw fit to make him angry."- After a paragraph describing what can be learned from manually checking someone's pulse, p. 106:"Some physicians of the older school feel that the younger generation of physicians neglects the pulse, and its study is becoming a lost art. The more recently trained physicians are more apt to depend upon certain instruments of precision."The Physiologic Doctor Watson- Van Liere calls himself a professional physiologist, defining physiology as studying the "function of an organism and its parts."- Adventure of the Creeping Man: the character Professor Presbury is a physiologist. Van Liere notes that not many professional physiologists are as wealthy as Presbury, and speculates where he might have come by the money. Van Liere refers to endocrinology in this story again. (This essay seems to reuse content from a few other the others.)- The Adventure of the Devil's Foot: female as the weaker sex in terms of constitution, sensitivity. Van Liere, p. 113:"Considerable proof can be adduced to show that the female is hardier than the male. The old cliche, "the weaker sex," can be seriously questioned."Example given: women less likely to die earlier due to high blood pressure than men.Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Perennial Athletes- Sports each played: Holmes - single stick player, boxer, swordsman; Watson - rugby- Multiple stories where running is important.- Adventure of the Speckled Band - after Dr. Roylott (villain) bends the poker into a curve, Holmes straightens it again. Van Liere, who seems to love championing Watson, states, p. 119:"I have always felt that, in spite of this startling demonstration on the part of Holmes, for sheer bull-like strength Dr. Watson undoubtedly excelled him."Not that he cites any particular examples.- How did they stay in shape? Stories show them having mainly sedentary lives aside from lots of walking. Mystery!- Random quote of Walrus and the Carpenter! (The bit about the fat oysters being out of breath.)The Therapeutic Doctor Watson- Medicines Dr. Watson used in his practice. Examples: morphine, brandy, ammonia/smelling salts, coffee/caffeine, amyl nitrate, etc.Doctor Watson, General Practitioner- References to "general practice of medicine."