Bell, James (DNB12)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BELL, JAMES (1824–1908), chemist, born in co. Armagh in 1824, was educated privately and at University College London, where he studied mathematics and chemistry, the latter under Dr. Alexander William Williamson [q. v. Suppl. II]. In 1846 he became an assistant in the Inland Revenue Laboratory at Somerset House, which had been established to carry out the provisions of the Tobacco Act of 1842, and was successively deputy principal from 1867 to 1874, and principal from 1874 till his resignation in 1894. The work of the laboratory was not long restricted to the examination of tobacco, but was extended to the value of brewing materials, the denaturing of alcohol for use in manufacture, and other matters affecting the excise. When the Food and Drugs Act of 1872 was amended in 1875, Bell was made chemical referee when disputed analyses of food were brought before the magistrates. In this capacity he elaborated methods for analysing chemically such articles of food as came within the operation of the Act, and in this work he made a high scientific reputation. Bell was also consulting chemist to the Indian government 1869–94. His researches into the grape and malt ferments were published in the 'Excise Officers' Manual' (1865) and in the 'Journal of the Chemical Society' in 1870. Many of his general results were embodied in his work on 'The Analysis and Adulteration of Foods' (3 pts. 1881-3; German transl., Berlin, 1882-5). His 'Chemistry of Tobacco' (1887) is another valuable scientific study. Bell's work was recognised in 1884 by his election as F.R.S., and he obtained the degree of Ph.D. from Erlangen in 1882 and received the hon. D.Sc. from the Royal University of Ireland (1886). He was made C.B. in 1889. He was a member of the Playfair committee on British and foreign spirits, and served as president of the Institute of Chemistry 1888-91. Bell died at Hove on 31 March 1908, and was buried at Ewell. He married in 1858 Ellen (d. 1900), daughter of W. Reece of Chester, and left issue one son, Sir William James Bell, alderman of the London county council (1903–7), who possesses a portrait in oils of his father, painted by W. V. Herbert in 1886.

[Proc. Roy. Soc., 82A 1909, p. v; Analyst, xxxvi. 157; Nature, lxxvii. 539; The Times, 2 April 1908.]

R. S.