George Joseph Bell

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George Joseph Bell FRSE (26 March 1770 – 23 September 1843) was a Scottish advocate and legal scholar. From 1822 to 1843 he was Professor of Scots Law at the University of Edinburgh. He was succeeded by John Shank More.

George Joseph Bell, portrait by James Tannock

Early life[edit]

George Bell was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, a son of the Rev William Bell (d. 1779), a clergyman of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. He was the younger brother of the surgeon John Bell, and an elder brother of the surgeon Sir Charles Bell. At the age of eight he entered the high school, but he received no university education further than attending the lectures of both A. F. Tytler and Dugald Stewart. Between 1787 and 1788 he attended lectures on Scots law by Hume, Professor of Scots law at Edinburgh University, and nephew of the philosopher Hume.

Advocate and scholar[edit]

Bell became a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1791, and was one of the earliest and most attached friends of Francis Jeffrey. In 1804 he published a Treatise on the Law of Bankruptcy in Scotland, which he subsequently enlarged and published in 1826 under the title of Commentaries on the Law of Scotland and on the principles of Mercantile Jurisprudence, praised by Joseph Story and James Kent. In 1821 Bell was elected Professor of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh; and in 1831 he was appointed to one of the principal clerkship's in the supreme court. He was placed at the head of a commission in 1833 to inquire into the Scottish bankruptcy law; and in consequence of the reports of the commissioners, chiefly drawn up by himself, many beneficial alterations were made.

Bell's smaller treatise, Principles of the Law of Scotland, became a standard text-book for law students. The Illustrations of the Principles is also a work of high value.

He married Barbara Shaw in 1805.

In 1832 they were living at 68 Queen Street in the centre of Edinburgh (now demolished).[1]

He is buried in St John's Episcopal Churchyard at the west end of Princes Street in Edinburgh.[2]


External links[edit]