Nov 4, 2016
Steve Gomez - Chief Investigator

Noir Factory Podcast #23 – The Real Life Inspiration for Professor Moriarty

Adam Worth“He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city, He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

He was the World’s Greatest Detective, but what did that mean if he went up against purse snatchers and sneak-thieves. He matched wits with the best criminals in London, but how impressive was that if you always came out on top? If you always won?

Doyle’s detective bored quickly and needed the game to keep his senses sharp, his intellect keen. So if you are Arthur Conan Doyle and you have the great Sherlock Holmes at your disposal, you don’t need a good villain or even a brilliant foe.

You need the greatest criminal mind ever.

You need the man Scotland Yard dubbed the “Napoleon of Crime.”

Adam Worth was born to a Jewish family in Germany in 1844 and traveled with his parents to America five years later. The Worth family settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Adam’s father was a tailor and young Adam helped around the shop.

When he was 5 years old, young Adam was conned into trading two old, dull pennies for a bright, shinny new one.

Adam’s father beat the boy for falling for the trick and even at that early, tender age, Adam Worth vowed that “no one would ever get the better of Adam Worth in any business transaction, regular or irregular.”


Macintyre, B. (1997). The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Pinkerton National Detective Agency. (2016). The Greatest Criminal Minds of the Past Century (Vol. Paperback). Leopold Classic Library.

Conliffe, C. (2015, September 21). Adam Worth, the Napoleon of Crime – HeadStuff.

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