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Thomas Bell (1792-1880)

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Thomas Bell (1792-1880) was a dental surgeon and zoologist.

1792 Thomas Bell was born at Poole, Dorset, on 11 October, the only son of the surgeon Thomas Bell and his wife, Susan.

During his childhood in Dorset, encouraged by his parents, Bell had developed an interest in natural history, especially zoology. Crustacea, Reptilia, and Amphibia became his main interests and all his publications were on zoological subjects.

1813 Bell entered Guy's Hospital, London, as a student, after initial training with his father; he also studied at St Thomas's.

1815 He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and was made a fellow in 1844.

1817 He succeeded James Fox as the dental surgeon and lecturer at Guy's and also took over his private dental practice.

Bell is regarded as one of the great British pioneers of dentistry, through his efforts to establish it as a separate branch of medicine.

He was responsible for innovations in the use of various dental instruments and was the first to treat teeth as living structures by applying scientific surgery to dental disease.

1827 He published a textbook: The Anatomy, Physiology and Diseases of the Teeth.

1828 He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

1836 He was appointed professor of zoology at King's College, London.

1848 He was appointed one of the secretaries of the Royal Society and remained in office until 1853.

1853 He became president of the Linnean Society.

1858 As president, Bell was in the chair at the Linnean Society meeting in June, when Darwin and Wallace presented their controversial papers on selection and the origin of species. Although a personal friend of Darwin's, he remained hostile to the theory of evolution throughout his life.

1880 Died at Selborne, in Hampshire, on 13 March. He was buried in the local churchyard.

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