Robert Bell was born on June 3, 1841 in Toronto Township, Canada. In 1856, he secured a position with the Geological Survey of Canada. The following summer Robert assisted Sir William Edmond Logan, the survey’s director, in the Saguenay region of Lower Canada. While working for the survey during the summers on a temporary basis, Bell pursued a degree in applied science from McGill College in Montreal, graduating in 1861 with the Governor General’s Medal. Two years later, after a period of study at the University of Edinburgh, he joined the faculty of Queen’s College in Kingston, Ont., and he served as interim professor of chemistry and natural science until 1867. In the meantime he continued his summer fieldwork for the GSC; he was made a permanent officer in 1869. Bell spent the remainder of his career with the survey, being named assistant director in 1877, chief geologist in 1890, and, finally, acting director in 1901. He took advantage of the survey’s location in Montreal, before its transfer to Ottawa in 1881, to secure a medical degree from McGill in 1878. Bell earned a number of Canadian and international awards, including honorary degrees, during his lifetime. In 1865, at the age of 23, he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of London. A charter-member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1882, he became a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1897. In 1903 he was made a companion of the Imperial Service Order, in recognition of his long public service, and in 1906 was awarded both the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London and the Cullum Geographical Medal of the American Geographical Society of New York. Bell officially retired from the survey at the end of November 1908. He spent two years (1912–14) in Europe before settling down to a routine in Canada, dividing his time between Ottawa and his farm at Rathwell, Man. He died in 1917.
Found in 1 Collection or Record:
Robert Bell (1841-1917), scientist, professor, and civil servant. Consist of papers relating to Robert Bell's work on the Hudson's Bay Expeditions of 1884 and 1885, his work for the Geological Survey of Canada, and his interest in other matters pertaining to the Arctic.