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Dr. Benjamin Bell


1749 - 1806

Surgeon. 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. Towards the end of the 18th Century, he published several important medical works.

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.

Bell was the great-grandfather of another surgeon Dr Joseph Bell (1837 - 1911), who inspired Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930).


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