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Sherlock Holmes and Heredity

David F. Musto, MD
JAMA. 1966;196(1):45-49. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100140099027.
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Sherlock Holmes's celebrated case, The Hound of the Baskervilles, began one fall morning when Dr. James Mortimer arrived at 221B Baker St. Dr. Mortimer was a country physician who had made a modest name for himself by writing on the phenomenon of atavism and the pathology of hereditary disease. Holmes and Dr. Watson listened as he read a 1742 manuscript relating "a certain legend which runs in the Baskerville family." It described the night, a hundred or so years earlier, when the cruel, godless Sir Hugo Baskerville, after an evening of particularly repulsive depravities, rendered "his body and soul to the Powers of Evil" and was later killed by a monster hell-hound. Subsequent bloody deaths in the family were laid to the vengeance of the hound haunting the Dartmoor estate. For several generations the curse had been quiescent when the sudden death of the most recent occupant, Sir Charles Baskerville,


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