Sir Charles Bell (1774 – 1842) was an Scottish anatomist, physiologist, neurologist and surgeon.
Bell was a prolific medical writer, anatomical researcher and a skilled artist, especially war injuries and anatomical drawings.
Most noted for discovering a difference between sensory nerves and motor nerves in the spinal cord (1807) and for describing Bell’s palsy.
Published and illustrated a System of Dissections whilst still at medical school.
- Born 12 November 1774 Doune, Perthshire
- 1799 – Graduated medicine, University of Edinburgh
- FRCS Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh
- 1809 – studied gunshot wounds at Haslar Hospital after the Battle of Corunna
- 1824 – Professor of anatomy and surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
- 1828 – London University and King’s College
- 1833 – Knighted by King William IV
- 1834 – gold medal of the Royal Society
- 1835 – Chair in Surgery at Edinburgh University
- Died 29 April 1842
Key Medical Attributions:
- Demonstrated the relationship between the special sense organs and those circumscribed brain areas where the nerve tracts from the sense organs ended
- Demonstrated the motor and sensory functions of the anterior and posterior spinal nerve roots
- Bell’s palsy (1827)
- Bell’s disease
- Bell Phenomenon – upward deviation of the eye on attempted eyelid closure.
- Law of Bell-Magendie
- Bell’s nerve
- Career was marred by disputes with the Edinburgh Medical Faculty and he moved to London to teach anatomy.
- Left London University surgical position in 1830 ‘dissatisfied by the bureaucratic rules‘ he was forced to comply with.
- Bell was one of the first to recognise the different functions of the anterior and posterior nerve roots, and argued extensively with Magendie over whose experiments were more definitive.
- Bell C. A system of dissections; explaining the anatomy of the human body, with the manner of displaying the parts. 1799
- Bell C. Essays on the anatomy of expression in painting. 1806
- Bell C. A system of operative surgery : founded on the basis of anatomy. Vol I, Vol II. 1807
- Bell C. Idea of a new anatomy of the brain : submitted for the observations of his friends. 1811
- Bell C. On the nerves; giving an account of some experiments on their structure and functions, which lead to a new arrangement of the system. London: Bulmer & Nicol. 1821
- Bell C. Appendix to the papers on the nerves. London: Longman 1827:68-72
- Bell C. On the nerves of the face; being a second paper on the subject. Phil Trans Royal Soc 1829;119:317-330
- Bell C. Essays on the anatomy and philosophy of expression (posthumous third edition, 7th revision)
- Bell C. Charles Bell – Artworks. Athenaeum
- Shaw A. On Sir Charles Bell’s researches in the nervous system. London, John Murray, 1847
- van Gijn J. Charles Bell (1774–1842). J Neurol. 2011 Jun; 258(6): 1189–1190. [PMC3101348]
- Beighton G, Wiedemann HR. The Person Behind the Syndrome. Springer. 1997 pp 21
- Koehler PJ, Bruyn GW, Pearce JMS. Neurological Eponyms. Oxford University Press 2000. pp188-193
- Fresquet JL. Charles Bell (1774-1842) Historia de la Medicina.
- Cranefield PF. The Way in and the way out: François Magendie, Charles Bell, and the roots of the spinal nerves. 1974
- Currie S. Familial oculomotor palsy with Bell’s palsy. Brain, 93;1.1970, 193–198
- Magendie F. Experiences sur les fonctions des racines des nerfs rachidiens. J Physiol Exp Pathol. 1822;2:276-279.
the person behind the name