Thomas Bell (zoologist)


Thomas Bell (zoologist)

Thomas Bell FRS (11 October 1792 - 13 March 1880) was an English zoologist, surgeon and writer, born in Poole, Dorset, UK.

Bell, like his mother Susan, took a keen interest in natural history which his mother also encouraged in his younger cousin Philip Henry Gosse. Bell left Poole in 1813 for his training as a dental surgeon in London. He combined two careers, becoming Professor of Zoology at King's College in 1836 (on the strength of his amateur researches) and lecturing on anatomy at Guy's Hospital. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1844. He was President of the Linnean Society in 1859.

Bell was at the heart of the scientific establishment and when Charles Darwin returned to London from the "Beagle" expedition on 2 December 1836, Bell was quick to take on the task of describing the reptile specimens. [Harvnb|Desmond & Moore|1991|Ref=CITEREFDesmondMoore1991|p= 204.] He was also entrusted with the specimens of Crustacea collected on the voyage. He was the authority in this field; his book "British Stalked-eye Crustacea" is a masterwork. He played a significant part in the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in March 1837 when he confirmed that the giant Galápagos tortoises were native to the islands, not brought in by buccaneers for food as Darwin had thought. [Harvnb|Desmond & Moore|1991|Ref=CITEREFDesmondMoore1991|p= 220.] He supported the arrangements for publication of "Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle", but then was very slow to make progress on the work, and though the first parts of work were published in 1838, Bell's contribution on reptiles ("Part 5") was published in two numbers, in 1842 and 1843, [ [http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Freeman_ZoologyOfBeagle.html The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online] : "The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle" – bibliography by Freeman, R. B. (1977) and links to online texts and images of each of the nineteen numbers.] and he subsequently failed to take any action on the crustacea. [Harvnb|Keynes|2000] As President of the Linnean Society he chaired the meeting on 1 July 1858 at which Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace first published their theories on natural section in the joint presentation of papers "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection". He apparently disapproved, and in his annual presidential report presented in May 1849 wrote that "The year which has passed has not, indeed, been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize, so to speak, the department of science on which they bear". [Harvnb|Browne|2002|p=40–42] [Harvnb|Keynes|2000]

In his seventieth year Bell retired to Selborne, where he took a keen interest in the amateur naturalist Gilbert White. In 1877 he published a new edition of White’s book "The Natural History of Selborne". Bell died at Selborne in 1880.

Works

*Thomas Bell. "A Monograph of the Testudinata" 1832-36 - summarizes all the world’s turtles, living and extinct. The forty plates are by James de Carle Sowerby and Edward Lear. [http://www.rarebookroom.org/Control/beltda/index.html Online edition] ar Rare Book Room.
*Thomas Bell. "A History of the British Stalk-eyed Crustacea" 1844-1853. John Van Voorst, Paternoster Row, London.

References

*Harvard reference
Surname = Browne
Given = E. Janet
Authorlink = Janet Browne
Year = 1995
Title = Charles Darwin: vol. 1 Voyaging
Publisher = London: Jonathan Cape
ID = ISBN 1-84413-314-1

*Harvard reference
Surname = Browne
Given = E. Janet
Authorlink = Janet Browne
Year = 2002
Title = Charles Darwin: vol. 2 The Power of Place
Publisher = London: Jonathan Cape
ID = ISBN 0-7126-6837-3

*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Desmond
Given1 = Adrian
Surname2 = Moore
Given2 = James
Authorlink2 = James Moore (biographer)
Year = 1991
Title = Darwin
Publisher = London: Michael Joseph, Penguin Group
ID = ISBN 0-7181-3430-3

*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Keynes
Given1 = Richard (ed.)
Year = 2000
Title = Charles Darwin's zoology notes & specimen lists from H.M.S. Beagle.
Publisher = Cambridge University Press
Location = Cambridge
Chapter = [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F1840&viewtype=text&pageseq=354 Specimen Lists]
Retrieved on 2007-06-12


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