Sherlock Holmes is always with us. Every time I walk down Baker St (which is often because we live just behind it), the point is driven home. We love Benedict Cumberbatch’s contemporary take on Sherlock, but that’s not what I’m getting at. For a bit further up the street from us, there is in fact a “Sherlock Holmes Hotel”, believe it or not. But let’s be clear about this. There is no famous London Blue Plaque at 221B, because, of course, he DIDN’T exist.

Which made this little known snippet rather a curiosity. I had no idea about this – but thanks to the inimitable Futility Closet, I do now. And it adds further evidence of the insane blurring of fictions and realities in our culture. That it should have come in such a bastion of the so-called hard sciences as the Royal Society of Chemistry is extraordinary.

Sherlock Holmes is an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“Holmes did not exist, but he should have existed,” society chief David Giachardi said in bestowing the award in 2002. “That is how important he is to our culture. We contend that the Sherlock Holmes myth is now so deeply rooted in the national and international psyche through books, films, radio and television that he has almost transcended fictional boundaries.”

Happy days.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Marcus

    Mark, I think you may be a little hard on the chemists. Aren’t they allowed a bit of fun too? And how better to enjoy yourself if you are a chemistry-funster than co-opting SH to the cause. After all we first hear of him in a lab beating corpses to discover if bruises form after death, and first meet him at the point he develops a foolproof chemical test that reacts to the presence of blood and nothing else (and gets a man hanged as a result).

    I think the lack of blue plaque is sad. Switzerland have done better. I recommend you (and all chemists) pay a visit to the Sherlock Holmes museum in Baker Street in Meirengen Hassleburg. Followed by a walk up that fateful chasm to the Reichenbach Falle.

    1. quaesitor

      Oh, no… not you as well Marcus… 😉

  2. Charlie

    Isn’t the key word from the quote “myth”? When he says that Holmes has transcended fictional boundaries, he doesn’t mean to say “I can’t separate fact from fiction” but something like “fiction can tell us things that are more than imaginary”. And doesn’t this have something to say about the nature of belief and how we might communicate Christian truth in the 21st Century?

    1. quaesitor

      I completely agree Charlie… he clearly knows the difference. And i was simply wanting a bit of my own fun.

      But there is a serious point that while the language of myth is a vital vehicle for communication of truth (viz C S Lewis, Tolkein etc etc), it’s tricky because of the widespread assumption that myth = fiction, even if there is acceptance of the possibility of fictional truth.

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