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British Industrial History

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Patrick Bell

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Patrick Bell (1799–1869), Church of Scotland minister and inventor of agricultural machinery

1799 born at mid-Leoch, in the parish of Auchterhouse, a few miles north-west of Dundee, son of George Bell, a tenant farmer and his wife, Margaret Lunan.

Studied at the University of St Andrews; while there he turned his attention to the design of a reaping machine, prompted by seeing the heavy toil of workers at harvest on his father's farm.

1827 He made a working model of a reaping machine

1828 He built a full-sized version which was tested successfully on the farm occupied by his brother, George. This machine was exhibited to the Highland and Agricultural Society in 1828–9, gaining an award.

A number of machines were built to Bell's basic design during the next few years - they were reported to have achieved some success on farms in lowland Scotland.

By the late 1830s, interest in Bell's machines, and in reaping machines generally, had subsided.

Bell never took out a patent for his reaper, because he wished to make it available, but later he realized this policy meant he was unable to control the standards of manufacture.

He married Jane Lawson.

1843 Bell was ordained in the Church of Scotland and became minister of the parish of Carmyllie, Arbroath; he served there until his death.

c.1850 William Crosskill brought Bell's reaper to general attention and practical operation[1]. It became known as Crosskill's Bell

1851 American built reaping machines were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851; there were many similarities with Bell's and other early reaping machines, notably that made by John Common in 1812.

In recognition of his services to agriculture he was presented with £1000 by the Highland Society and a piece of plate, subscribed for by the farmers of Scotland and others.

1869 Bell died at the manse, Carmyllie. He was survived by his wife.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1858/11/12
  • Biography of Patrick Bell, ODNB