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Professor Moriarty (also dubbed "The Napoleon of Crime") was a criminal genius and professor of mathematics who vied with Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty, whose role was largely in the planning of criminality than in commiting the acts himself, was first introduced in works published by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in "The Final Problem" and is the villain lurking behind the events of the novel The Valley of Fear. All of the Professor's later appearences are extra-canonical.

His forename is not given in "The Final Problem", although reference is made to his brother Colonel James Moriarty. In William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes play, he is called Robert. When he is mentioned in later Conan Doyle stories, his name is given as James.

The Moriarty family are stated to be from the West Country; traditionally, however, students of the Sherlock Holmes stories considier him to be, as his surname suggests, an Irishman. The Professor has two brothers, the Colonel and a West Country stationmaster whose forename is never given but who is also, by tradition, thought to be called James.

Professor H.W. Starr, in his article A Submersible Subterfuge, or Proof Impositive, argued that Professor Moriarty had served aboard the Nautilus as Captain Nemo in Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is also the case in Philip José Farmer's novel The Other Log of Phileas Fogg.

In The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, Moriarty and his brothers share the same father. In Doc Savage: His Apocalytic Life, Farmer amended this to a common mother, Morcar Moriarty, a descendent of Jonathan Wild. He gave the Professor's father as General Sir William Clayton (whom he also cited as Fu Manchu's father).

In his article The Secret History of Captain Nemo, Rick Lai has argued that although Clayton's memoirs state that he was the Professor's father, he was actually parent to one of the other brothers, Colonel James Moriarty, and that the Professor and the stationmaster were the sons of Dr. James Noel.

According to Farmer, Professor Moriarty had two sons by his wife or mistress Emily Caber, named James and Emile, and a daughter named Urania. Both boys and their mother died some time prior to Moriarty's career as Nemo, and a portrait of the three was carried about the Nautilus. Wold Newton scholar Dennis Power has suggested that Moriarty was also the father of Wolf Larsen, and by inference his brother Death Larsen, although the identity of their mother is a matter of some debate. It is also not yet a matter of consensus as to whether Patricia Donleavly, the villainess of the first Mary Russell novel, is Urania Moriarty or another daughter.

Christopher Carey's tour-de-force article The Green Eyes Have It - Or Are They Blue? proposed that Wolf Larsen was actually Moriarty himself; this is not generally agreed, although certain of his other findings about Wolf Larsen are.

In both a series of novels by Michael Kurland, and a series of short stories by Kim Newman, Moriarty's role as criminal mastermind is developed to make him essentially an amoral or wicked equivalent to Sherlock Holmes - a consulting criminal as much as his rival is a consulting detective. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, Moriarty is revealed to be running his criminal organisation on behalf of British Intelligence, and he is identified in this role by the code-name M.

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