Joseph Bell FRCSE (2 December 1837 - 4 October 1911) was a Scottish surgeon and lecturer at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh in the 19th century. He is best known as an inspiration for the literary character Sherlock Holmes.
Bell was the son of Cecilia Barbara Craigie (1813-1882) and Benjamin Bell (1810-1883), and a great-grandson of Benjamin Bell, considered to be the first Scottish scientific surgeon. In his instruction, Joseph Bell emphasized the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis. To illustrate this, he would often pick a stranger, and by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities. These skills caused him to be considered a pioneer in forensic science, (forensic pathology in particular), at a time when science was not yet widely used in criminal investigations.
Bell was one of the first physicians to insist that medical students wash their hands before examining pregnant women after coming from the morgue or lectures. His actions saved the lives of many women across the Central Belt.
Bell studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School and received an MD in 1859. During his time as a student, he was a member of the Royal Medical Society and delivered a dissertation which is still in possession of the society today. Bell served as personal surgeon to Queen Victoria whenever she visited Scotland. He also published several medical textbooks. Bell was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RSCEd), a justice of the peace, and a deputy lieutenant. He was elected president of the RSCEd in 1887.
Bell wrote the book Manual of the Operations of Surgery, published in 1866.
In 1883, Bell bought 2 Melville Crescent, a large townhouse, previously the home of the engineer John Miller of Leithen.
Joseph Bell died on 4 October 1911. He was buried at the Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh alongside his wife Edith Katherine Erskine Murray (1840-1874) and their son Benjamin, and next to his parents' and brother's plots. The grave is mid-way along the north wall of the northern section to the original cemetery. (wikipedia.org)