The Return of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Return of Sherlock Holmes Science Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story.Paragraph) or (Story.Section.Paragraph) if applicable.
All day I turned these facts over in my mind, endeavouring to hit some theory which could reconcile them all, and to find that line of least resistance which my poor friend had declared to be the starting-point of every investigation. (Empty House.1.7)
Watson describes Holmes's scientific methods here as he tries to follow his friends reasoning to solve a puzzle. Holmes seems to be a fan of Occam's Razor here, or the idea that the simplest solution is usually the right one.
"I don't think I could have done it in cold blood. It was a hundred times more difficult than getting up. But I had no time to think of the danger [....]" (Empty House.1.33)
This is one of the very few instances where Holmes doesn't actually praise cold detachment and logic. Instead, Holmes notes that his adrenaline and his panic, an emotional response, saved his life in a threatening situation.
"I have a theory that the individual represents in his development the whole procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedigree. The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of the history of his own family."
"It is surely rather fanciful."
"Well, I don't insist upon it." (Empty House.2.19-21)
Holmes's fascinating theory of heritage and genetics is in line with a lot of the scientific theories emerging in the 1890s regarding genetics, evolution, family traits, and race. This idea of someone being the culmination of their family's history also implies that criminals are always born in the past rather than made in the present, which seems to not jive with Holmes's views on talent and choice. How do you reconcile these ideas?