“Sherlock Holmes: Probably One of The Greatest Statisticians, That Never Lived”

Dr. James Bryant
Biological Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin

James Bryant, Ph.D.

James Bryant, Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009
5:45 p.m. – Networking Reception
6:30 p.m. – Presentation

Sherlock Holmes is one of the world’s best known fictitious criminologists, who made his first appearance in 1887. Holmes was regularly featured in print, in both The Strand Magazine and Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. He was characterized as ‘the world’s first consulting detective’, who employed impartial observation and abductive reasoning to infer the solution to mysteries and identify perpetrators of crimes.

Perhaps surprisingly, Holmes’ approach to critical thinking and problem solving are not founded on fiction. Holmes was conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish born physician and author, who claimed to have based his character upon Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell was both a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a medical student, and a criminologist who assisted the police in the late 19th century.

The mental processes used by Holmes, Doyle and Bell all embrace and headline the use of sound statistical methodologies, in order to understand and mold the real world. In this talk both frequentist and Bayesian statistical methods which were used by Holmes will be highlighted. The application of these methods to our personal lives will be demonstrated and the application of how these skills, which we all currently possess to some degree, will be showcased.


Dr. Bryant has been a faculty member at UT at Austin since 2005, where he primarily teaches Biostatistics and Immunology. Dr. Bryant’s primary interests include the promotion of quantitative analytical skills and critical reasoning. Dr. Bryant’s research interests include understanding student requirements for mastery and application of complex skill sets: the development of teaching methods to simplify and assist student acquisition and application of subject material. Dr. Bryant’s previous research interests include the establishment of mouse knockout facilities, the development of embryonic stem cell assay systems to identify chemotherapeutic drugs and developmental genes and the development of analytical models for describing three dimensional spaces.

Dr. Bryant was born in rural Cornwall, at the south westerly tip of the United Kingdom. Dr. Bryant obtained his Ph.D. at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Immunology and Molecular Biology, carried out his post doctoral research at the University of Cambridge on embryoid bodies and their applications within medical research.