Medical Definition of Bell, Charles

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Bell, Charles: (1774-1842) Renowned surgeon, anatomist and artist, who discovered Bell's palsy, paralysis of the facial nerve, the nerve that supplies the facial muscles on one side of the face. Bell waa a great neurologist and made many of the early discoveries in neurology including the Mona Lisa syndrome, the facial muscle contracture that develops after Bell's palsy when the facial nerves has undergone partial degeneration and then has regenerated, resulting in a Mona Lisa-like smile.

Born in Scotland, Charles Bell came to London in 1804. There he built up a private teaching practice and then bought the Great Windmill Street School of Anatomy founded by William Hunter. Bell produced many anatomical drawings and watercolors, some of the most important of which were produced while he was a medical officer at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Bell was associated with the Middlesex Hospital, the Royal College of Surgeons, the University of London (now University College London, and established the Medical School at The Middlesex Hospital.

In 1829 Bell received the first medal awarded by the Royal Society (50 guineas) and was knighted by the King. He was considered the foremost physician and scientist of his day in England. Nonetheless he accepted an invitation to become professor of surgery in Edinburgh and in 1836 left London for as he said: "London was good place to live in but not to die in". Another reason for his return to Scotland was his love of flyfishing! So it was that Bell died where he was born -- in Scotland.


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