Bell, Robert

Robert Bell, geologist, explorer (b at Toronto 3 June 1841; d at Rathwell, Man 17 June 1917). In 1857 Bell was junior assistant to the GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA. He obtained a BSc from McGill (1861) and in 1862 was made a member of the prestigious Geological Soc of London in recognition of the Canadian contribution to the London Exhibition. Following George LAWSON, he was interim professor of chemistry and natural science at Queen's 1863-67.

In 1869 Bell was employed full time by the survey, and began a series of northern and western explorations, mapping rivers draining into HUDSON BAY and reconnoitering the route for a transcontinental railway. A GSC assistant director 1877, charter member of the ROYAL SOCIETY OF CANADA (1882) and an MD (McGill) by 1878, Bell in 1884-85 was medical and science officer aboard 2 government expeditions to explore HUDSON STR. He called Hudson Bay "the Mediterranean of N America" and advocated its utilization as a natural highway between Western Canada and Europe.

In 1889 he was a member of the Royal Commission on the Mineral Resources of Ontario. In 1897 he explored BAFFIN I and in 1899 GREAT SLAVE LK.

Despite many honours and his remarkable exploration of many areas of geology, zoology, ethnology, botany and forestry over a vast and previously unknown terrain, Bell never realized his ambition to become GSC director, although he was acting director 1901-06, and chief geologist 1906-08. After living in Paris 1912-14, Bell and his family moved to the Assiniboine R in Manitoba.