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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Dr. Conan Doyle's Rejected Invention

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Dr. Conan Doyle's Rejected Invention is an article published in The Westminster Gazette on 23 february 1900.

Dr. Conan Doyle's Rejected Invention

The Westminster Gazette
(23 february 1900, p. 6)

An Explanation by the War Office.

Even the late lamented Sherlock Holmes was not above making mistakes occasionally — mistakes for which "My dear Watson," sometimes failed to console him.

Now the War Office, to whom the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. A. Conan Doyle, submitted an original invention for service in war time, are convinced that Mr. Doyle has made a mistake. The well-known author, in a letter to the Times of yesterday, declared that though "my invention might be the greatest nonsense or it might be epoch-making, I was given no opportunity either to explain or to illustrate it." To those who didn't read this letter it may be explained that Dr. Doyle's invention was based on successful experiments which he had made in the direction of affixing a small, simple, and economical apparatus to the rifle by which a man would know at what angle to hold his gun in order to drop a bullet at any given range. "It would weigh nothing," says the inventor," cost about a shilling, take up no space, and interfere in no way with the present sights," and it would, he declares, enable a rain of bullets to be dropped vertically all over the enemy's position, however intrenched or protected at the sides, so that human life would be made impossible within a certain area.

Dr. Doyle is aggrieved because the War Office have replied stating that they "will not trouble him in the matter." So this morning a representative of the Westminster Gazette called at Pall Mall and saw the private secretary of General Brackenbary, the Director-General of Ordnance. Captain Kenyon courteously remarked that Dr. Doyle had scarcely given his department their just due. He noticed that a question was to be asked in the House of Commons relative to the invention, and it would then probably transpire that Dr. Doyle had received three letters from the War Office, of which he had only published the last.

"I do not think," said the official, "we showed any discourtesy to Dr. Doyle. We gave his invention, as described in his letter, our consideration, and we wrote to him asking for further details."

"But you refused the other? You did not ask the inventor to personally illustrate his apparatus?"

"We refused it because it was impracticable," replied Captain Kenyon. "To fire a bullet into the air — however you may theoretically gauge its direction — with a vacillating wind about is distinctly dangerous, and it might quite conceivably fall on to the firer's own head instead of the enemy's. The idea is not a new one, and I believe experiments have been made; but they prove that with any sort of wind at all it is impossible at the distance such as Dr. Doyle prescribes to effectively deduce the bullet's actual direction."

It now remains for the novelist to prove by public experiment that the War Office is wrong and he is right.