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Dr. John Bell (1845-1878) was born in Toronto, Ontario, son of Rev. Andrew Bell (an early pioneer in Canadian geology) and younger brother of Canadian geologist Robert Bell. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and his first medical degree from Queen's University in the early 1860s. Around the time of his graduation, he spent five months apprenticing with the United States Army in two American Army General Hospitals close to the front lines of the American Civil War – Brown General Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky, and the US General Floating Hospital, Ohio, at New Albany, Indiana.
Bell furthered his medical education at McGill University, graduating in 1866 with a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery (MD,CM). Upon graduation, he took the appointment of Senior Apothecary at the Montreal General Hospital – a post which he held for nearly three years. Bell then embarked on ten years of private practice on Beaver Hall Hill in Montreal. There are few details about his practice, although in the late 1870s he was Physician to the Protestant Infants’ Home and the Montreal Dispensary.
He published “The Case of Progressive Pernicious Anemia” in 1877 in Transactions of Canada Medical Association containing remarks from William Osler, and in 1878 he published “Case of Diphtheria, Acute Laryngeal Symptoms – Tracheotomy – Recovery” in Canada Medical and Surgical Journal.
At the time of his death, he had applied to, and was being considered for, the position of Attending Physician/House Surgeon at Montreal General Hospital – the position that William Osler subsequently filled. While visiting relations in Ontario, Bell fell seriously ill with Pneumonia and succumbed to the illness just a few days later on March 29th, 1878. Bell is known to have been a great inspiration to his friend and colleague, William Osler