Fonds P079 - Robert Bell Fonds

Notebook 14 Notebook 15 Notebook 16 Notebook 17 Notebook 18 Notebook 19 Notebook 20

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Robert Bell Fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.

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  • 1870-1979 (Creation)
    Bell, Robert, 1841-1917

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39.5 cm of textual records.

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Biographical history

Robert Bell was born in Toronto. He was the son of Rev. Andrew Bell (an early pioneer in Canadian geology), and the older brother of John Bell 1845-1878 (fellow McGill graduate and friend/colleague of William Osler). In 1861, at the age of 19, Robert Bell graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Science. From 1863 to 1867 he taught chemistry and natural science at Queen's University, but it was his connection with the Geological Survey of Canada, one which went back as far as 1857, which dominated his professional life. Bell was responsible for surveys covering northern Québec and Ontario, northern Manitoba, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. He also took part in expeditions to Hudson's Bay (1884, 1885 and 1897) and Baffinland (1897). He served as director of the Survey from 1901 to 1906. See also Section II. McGill Students; Special Collection: Medical Students' Notes
It was Bell’s connection with the Geological Survey of Canada, which he began in 1857, that dominated much of his professional life. Over the years, he was responsible for Canadian surveys covering northern Quebec and Ontario, northern Manitoba, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. He also took part in early expeditions to Hudson’s Bay (1884, 1885 and 1897) and Baffinland (1897). Bell would go on to serve as Director of Survey from 1901 to 1906. Throughout his career, Bell was instrumental in naming more than 3000 geographical features such as hills, promontories, rivers, and places for possible habitation. The Geological Survey Board acknowledged his legacy by naming the Bell River in western Quebec after him, as well as naming Bell Island in Hudson Bay in his honour.

Bell was impressively known as a ‘doctor-explorer’, as he had returned to McGill and earned an MD in 1878 at the age of 37. Fifteen years later, he was given an LLD by Queen’s in 1893 and was made a DSc at McGill in 1901. His services to science were also recognized by Cambridge University in another doctorate of science (ScD) in 1903. In that same year, he was awarded the Companionship of the Imperial Service Order (ISO) from the British government. Robert Bell’s professional honours included the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Cullum Gold Medal from the American Geographical Society.

Custodial history

Purchased at Montreal Book Auctions Ltd., sale 112, 12 October 1978 and from John Mappin in 1979. Old accession numbers 612, 732, 736, 742, 746 and 747. Inventory for acc. 732 purchased from John Mappin in 1979 also included in the finding aid.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of Robert Bell's student notebooks related to his medical studies in Surgery, Materia Medica, Practice of Medicine, Obstetrics, Physiology and Clinics at McGill University. The fonds also contains circular letters and medical advertisements. Inventory for acc.732 purchased from John Mappin in 1979 also included in fonds.

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  • English

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The documents are in English.

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Items can be requested for consultation online via the Library Catalogue or by email at Advance notice is recommended.

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