Bell graduated in Social Sciences from California State University, Fresno in 1948. He then attained his Ph.D. from UCLA  in 1952 and served on the faculties of Stanford University (1952-4; directed Stanford Survey Research Facility), Northwestern University (1954-7), and UCLA (1957–63; headed West Indies Study Program). From 1963 to 1964, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, California.
Joining the Yale faculty in 1963, Bell went on to become Chair of the Yale Department of Sociology and helped found the Yale Program of African American Studies. He retired from Yale in 1995.
While Bell's early research interests focussed on the sociology of US cities, and some later research interests focussed on the sociology of Caribbean countries (Bell served as President of the Caribbean Studies Association from 1979 to 1980), Bell is primarily known for his research and other works as a futurist.
Bell has worked as a professional futurist for over 40 years. In 2005, The World Futures Studies Federation awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In 2008, the Association of Professional Futurists selected Bell's two-volume work The Foundations of Futures Studies as one of the ten most important futures studies books.
- Caves, Roger W. (2005). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 24. ISBN 0415252253.
- Bell, Wendell (2011). Memories of the Future. Transaction Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-4128-4262-4.
- "Wendell Bell On The Future". Forbes. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
- "Futurist, Ex-Fresnan Wendell Bell on CNN". The Fresno Bee. 1997-08-09. Retrieved Feb 8, 2012.
- Kicker, Darrell (February 2009). "Wendell Bell and Oliver W. Markley: Two Futurists' Views of the Preferable, the Possible and the Probable" (PDF). Journal of Futures Studies. 13 (3): 161–178. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
- "Yale Sociology - Wendell Bell". Yale University. Retrieved February 8, 2012.