Conan Doyle trained and practiced as a doctor before turning to a writing career. This chapter looks at the practice of medicine, fully professionalized in his own lifetime, and firmly divided into an aristocracy of consultants and a “subordinate grade” of general practitioners, or family doctors, of whom he was one. Examples of both appear in many of his stories, discussed in this chapter, but the medical hierarchy also exemplifies the emergence and hegemony, in the late nineteenth century, of the expert, a trained specialist of narrow, deep and modern knowledge, very much the avatar of modern professional society. An amateur himself by temperament, and a GP in practice, Conan Doyle had very mixed feelings about this paragon, exemplified above all by Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective, and contrasted by Dr Watson, the pedestrian but warm-hearted generalist.
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