Who is Professor Moriarty?



 Moriarty by Sideny Paget  


His complete name was James Moriarty. He was created by Doyle as antagonist and archenemy of Sherlock Holmes. He is at the same intellectual level as Holmes.

Moriarty is a criminal mastermind, described by Holmes as the “Napoleon of Crime”. Professor Moriarty ruled the London underworld in the late 19th century, before (apparently) meeting his death at the Reichenbach Falls at the hands of the great detective.


The archicriminal

Holmes described him in the “Final Problem” as an extremely intelligent man of good birth. Moriarty was a Professor of Mathematics, who wrote a treatise on the binomial theorem which had an European vogue, lectured about eclipses, and became the celebrated author of “The Dynamics of An Asteroid”, a book so advanced that “no man in the scientific press is able to criticize it”. He had a brilliant career but his criminal hereditary tendencies,

“…instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers. Dark rumours gathered round him in the University town, and eventually he was compelled to resign his chair and come down to London…”

The Final Problem 

 At first, in a manner similar to Holmes being a consulting detective, Moriarty was a consulting criminal. Later he set up his own criminal syndicate, with Colonel Sebastian Moran as his right hand.

In 1891, when Holmes disrupted his criminal activities, he pursued the detective across to the aforementioned Falls in Switzerland , where the two fought and Moriarty fell to his death, apparently, because no body was found. 

Moriarty’s weapon of choice was the “air-rifle”, a unique weapon constructed for the Professor by a blind German mechanic, von Herder, and used by Colonel Sebastian Moran, his second in his criminal organization.


Physical description and family


 Viktor Yevgrafov as Moriarty



Moriarty is tall and thin, and white haired. He has an ascetic appearance and solemn speaking. Moriarty was described as swinging his head from side to side like a snake about to strike.

The stories give a number of indications about the Professor’s family, some contradictory. In The Valley of Fear, Holmes says of him: “He is unmarried. His younger brother is a station master in the west of England.” In The Final Problem, Watson refers to “the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother.


Why was he created?

Doyle’s original motive in creating Moriarty was evidently his intention to kill Holmes off. As is well known, “The Final Problem” was intended to be exactly what its name says; Doyle sought to sweeten the pill a little bit by letting Holmes go in a blaze of glory, having rid the world of a criminal so powerful and dangerous that any further task would be trivial in comparison (as Holmes says in the story itself). Moriarty only appeared in one book because, quite simply, having him constantly escape would discredit Holmes, and would be less satisfying. Valley of Fear changes this.


Moriarty fighting
 Holmes and Moriarty fighting over the Reichenbach Falls, by Sidney Paget.   

Moriarty plays a direct role in only one other of Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories: The Valley of Fear, which was set before The Final Problem, but published afterwards.

Holmes mentions Moriarty reminiscently in five other stories: The Empty House (the immediate sequel to The Final Problem, The Norwood Builder, The Missing Three- Quarter, The Illustrious Client and his Last Bow.

This character is considered the first example of a supervillain.





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