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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury and the Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury People

What is the Bloomsbury Project?

The Leverhulme-funded UCL Bloomsbury Project was established to investigate 19th-century Bloomsbury’s development from swampy rubbish-dump to centre of intellectual life

Led by Professor Rosemary Ashton, with Dr Deborah Colville as Researcher, the Project has traced the origins, Bloomsbury locations, and reforming significance of hundreds of progressive and innovative institutions

Many of the extensive archival resources relating to these institutions have also been identified and examined by the Project, and Bloomsbury’s developing streets and squares have been mapped and described

This website is a gateway to the information gathered and edited by Project members during the Project’s lifetime, 1 October 2007–30 April 2011, with the co-operation of Bloomsbury’s institutions, societies, and local residents

Charles Bell (1774–1842)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was the most distinguished of several Scottish medical Professors to take up the first chairs in the newly opened University of London (later University College London) in 1828

Having studied medicine in Edinburgh and been a member of the group of Whig and reformist thinkers who founded the Speculative Society and in 1802 the Edinburgh Review, he moved to London in 1804

In 1814 he was appointed surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London

A friend from his Edinburgh days of Henry Brougham, one of the chief founders of the University of London, and of Leonard Horner, appointed its Warden in 1827, Bell was a contributor to the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, of which Brougham was also the founder

He was chosen by the Council of the University to give the inaugural lecture at its grand opening on 1 October 1828

According to The Times, the audience was large and highly respectable, and Bell’s speech, which the paper reproduces, “furnishes, we think, a fair ground of confidence in the talents which have been engaged for professional instruction by the Directors of the new University” (The Times, 2 October 1828)

However, problems arose out of confusion (and jealousy) about how the different medical specialisms were to be divided between the different Professors (H. Hale Bellot, University College London 1826–1926, 1929)

Bell became involved in a long-running argument with his fellow Professor of Anatomy, Granville Sharp Pattison, about who did what, and in the claim and counter-claim which followed, Bell sided with his friend Horner against Pattison and did nothing to support Pattison when he came under public criticism from students

Eventually, in the summer of 1831, Pattison was dismissed, Horner resigned, and three professors gave their notice in protest at the University’s treatment of Pattison

Bell had already resigned during the autumn term of 1830 after the University refused to restructure the medical faculty according to his wishes

The Council had to find a temporary replacement, Thomas Southwood Smith, until it could fill the post permanently (Education Committee, 27 October 1828, Committee Minutes 1828–1829, UCL Records Office)

Bell continued as Surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital until he was offered the Chair of Surgery at Edinburgh University in 1836, having been knighted in 1831

For more general biographical information about Charles Bell, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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