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Biographical entry Bell, Thomas (1792 - 1880)

MRCS Oct 6th 1815; FRCS (by election) Aug 26th 1844; FRS 1828.

11 October 1792
Poole, Dorset
13 March 1880
Selborne, Hampshire
Dental surgeon and Zoologist


Born at Poole, Dorsetshire, on Oct 11th, 1792, the only son of Thomas Bell, a surgeon. He entered Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals in 1813 and was appointed Dental Surgeon to Guy's Hospital in 1817, holding the post and lecturing on Dental Anatomy until 1861. In 1836 he was appointed Professor of Zoology at King's College, having already lectured on the subject of comparative anatomy at Guy's Hospital. He was elected FRS in 1828 and was one of the Secretaries from 1848-1853. He was for eleven years a Vice-President of the Zoological Society, where he had been one of the originators of the scientific meetings. He was President of the Linnean Society from 1853-1861, and under his guidance the society advanced greatly, and in spite of strong Government opposition became housed in Burlington House. He was also President of the Ray Society from its foundation in 1843 until 1859.

He died at Selborne in Hampshire at The Wakes, which he had bought from Gilbert White's grandniece, on March 13th, 1880.

Bell was a pioneer in raising dentistry to the rank of a profession - work which was continued by Salter and by the Tomes - father and son. His work, On the Anatomy and Diseases of the Teeth, published 8vo, London, 1829 (2nd ed, 1835), was largely a compilation from Hunter, Blake, and Fox. He was a very good administrator, and a man of such attractive manners as to gain the confidence of young and old in every class of life. He published a classic edition of White's Natural History of Selborne in 1877, with a pleasing memoir of Gilbert White. In his house at Selborne he made a collection of relics and memorials of White, which he was always willing to show to admirers of the naturalist. A fine mezzotint portrait of Bell by Nobel after the painting by Taples is in the College Collection.

History of British Quadrupeds, including the Cetacea, 8vo, London, 1837; 2nd ed (with R F TOMES and E R ALSTON), 1874.
History of British Reptiles, 8vo, London, 1839.
History of British Stalk-eyed Crustacea, 8vo, London, 1853.
Monograph of Testudinata, 8 parts, fol, London, 1833-42.
Monograph on Fossil Malacostracous Crustacea, 4to, London (Palaeontographical Society), 1857-62.
"On Chelonia of the London Clay" in Fossil Reptilia of London Clay (with R Owen), 4to, London (Palaeontographical Society), i, 1849-58.
Catalogue of Crustacea in the British Museum i, Leucosiadoe, 12mo, London, 1855.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, sub nomine et auct ibi cit].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England