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Published in the Journal of the American

Academy of Dermatology, 9(4):613, 1983.

The Sir James Saunders Society

Edgar B. Smith, MD*

Galveston, TX


Sherlock Holmes, the great consulting detective of Victorian and Edwardian England, has had a loyal and devoted following since his exploits were first made public by Dr. John Watson in the late 1800s. However, it was not until 1934 that these devotees were actually organized. In that year, Christopher Morley and a group of colleagues in New York City held the first meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars and that same year the Sherlock Holmes Society of London was founded. Although the English society was dormant for some time during the 1940s, both organizations are now active and vigorous and both publish well-respected journals devoted to Sherlockian studies. The cult of Sherlock Holmes followers has particularly grown in the United States, and there are now many local and professional organizations of Sherlock Holmes fans. Holmes stories contain much medical interest and, because of the Holmesian emphasis on accurate observation and analytic reasoning, are particularly attractive to dermatologists. In 1974, a group of dermatologic Sherlockians formed one of the first professional scion societies of the Baker Street Irregulars and held their first meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, IL on December 10. Among those founding members of the Sir James Saunders Society (named in honor of the dermatologist consulted by Holmes in "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier") were Herman Beerman, MD, Edgar B. Smith, MD, Philip Anderson, MD, Cary Barnes, MD, Joseph Burnett, MD, Dan Chalker, MD, Richard Dobson, MD, Jack Graham, MD, Leon Miller, MD, Larry Millikan, MD, Ralph Powell, MD, James Roller, MD, John Shaw, MD, J. Graham Smith, Jr, MD, Mr. David Taplan, John Tindall, MD, Gerald Wachs, MD, and Margaret Gray Wood, MD

From this modest beginning, the annual Sir James Saunders Society luncheon has grown to become a well-attended highlight of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. The past three meetings have been attended by eighty to ninety dermatologists and friends. There are both social and educational aspects of the annual Sir James Saunders luncheon. It provides an opportunity for admirers of the great detective to gather and discuss his stories and toast Holmes, Watson, and villains, as well as other heroes from the stories. Examinations are given each year over assigned reading material, and appropriate awards are made. In addition, scientific papers based upon the Holmesian Canon are presented. In the following pages one of the best of those papers is published, the special tribute to the women of the Holmes stories, by Dr. Marilynne McKay of Emory University. Her paper illustrates the combination of scholarship, admiration for Holmes and the stories about him, and wry humor, which well characterize the annual meetings of the Sir James Saunders Society. I sincerely hope that Dr. McKay's article, "Ladies of the Canon" will encourage others to peruse and enjoy these great tales and encourage more serious devotees to join us in the Sir James Saunders Society.

*Registrar, Sir James Saunders Society.

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