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March 26, 2016
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1 Introduction
Benjamin Bell



Benjamin Bell (1749 - 1806) is considered the first Scottish scientific surgeon. He published medical works of noted significance and was to the foret in the development of multiple surgical techniques of importance.

Bell was born in Dumfries and educated in that town. His family owned Blackett House in Middlebie Parish (Dumfriesshire), which Bell was later to sell to fund the education of himself and his family.

He became an apprentice to a surgeon in Dumfries, before moving to Edinburgh in 1766 to study medicine at the University there under the tutelage of Alexander Monro (Secundus; 1733 - 1817), Joseph Black (1728-99) and John Hope (1725-86). He visited London and Paris shortly after becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. After two years, he returned and worked in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for 29 years and grew wealthy from private practice.

Benjamin Bell is considered the first Scottish scientific surgeon. He was one of the first surgeons to emphasize the importance of preventing or diminishing pain during surgery, often using homeopathic techniques. As a surgeon, he also introduced a number of improvements in amputation. Towards the end of the 18th century, he published several important medical works, including books on surgery and venereal diseases. This treatise, The Theory and Management of Ulcers, was first published in 1778 and is still considered one of the classics of 18th Century physiology. An edition was published in Boston in 1797.

Bell, in his 1796 A System of Surgery, was another advocate of the routine use of opium to relieve post-operative pain, stating: to be able to alleviate the misery of those who are obliged to submit to dangerous operations must afford the biggest gratification to every practitioner. Bell also credited his fellow Scot, James Moore, with developing a clamp to produce nerve compression in the arm or leg to provide analgesia for amputation.

Bell was the great-grandfather of another surgeon Dr Joseph Bell (1837 - 1911), who inspired Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) in his writing of Sherlock Holmes. He was also a close friend of the British Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger- who had at sometime offered Bell a title of Lord. Bell politely refused.

He suffered an accident which ended his medical career and took up farming at Liberton. He bought the lands of Newington in 1803 and was responsible for the development of the area. He built Newington House for himself just before his death. Although this house was demolished in 1966, the streets around where it lay include Blacket Avenue and Middleby Street named after the Dumfriesshire localities of Bell's youth. His son, George, commissioned architect James Gillespie Graham (1776 - 1855) to prepare plans for housing and the subdivision of the land into plots.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Benjamin Bell".

Last Modified:   2010-11-25

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