The Chemical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson

The "Chemical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" has been made into the first virtual issue of the Journal of Chemical Education at ACS Publications. It is no longer available in print form.

In 1989 Thomas G. Waddell and Thomas R. Rybolt published their first story in the Journal of Chemical Education in The Chemical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series, “Sherlock Holmes and the Yellow Prisms”. That one story grew to 15 with the publication of “Autopsy in Blue” in the April 2004 issue. Ken Shaw then picked up the torch and published two additional articles in 2008 and 2009.

By popular request all 17 stories are gathered into a single virtual issue. Supporting information for the articles includes versions where the formatting has been standardized so that there is consistency among all stories, making it easier for educators to make photocopies for students that include only the stories and not the solutions.

The 17 stories, while vastly different in content and the chemistry they illustrate, share common threads. A text box at the beginning of each story shares information on the chemical themes of each story. For example, the first story, “Sherlock Holmes and the Yellow Prisms”, provides a problem in organic and inorganic qualitative analysis, while the final story, “Autopsy in Blue”, emphasizes qualitative inorganic analysis, forensic chemistry, and medicinal substances. The story itself then follows the box and ends with a stop sign, asking readers “Can You Solve the Mystery?” A gray text box presents questions that prompt readers to consider the relevant points of the story in their quest for the solution. Sherlock Holmes’s solution begins on a separate page; it may include explanatory calculations, reactions, and diagrams.

The Chemical Adventure stories are popular for their education as well as entertainment value.


Thomas G. Waddell and Thomas R. Rybolt, Ken Shaw