Memorable Manitobans: Gordon Bell (1863-1923)
Physician, educator, opthamologist, bacteriologist, naturalist.
Born at Pembroke, Ontario on 22 May 1863, he was educated at Pembroke Collegiate, the University of Toronto, and the Manitoba Medical College. He lost a leg as a result of a severe bout with typhoid in 1889.  He served as Superintendent of the Brandon Asylum for the Insane from 1891 to 1894 before becoming Manitoba’s first opthamologist. In 1896 he was appointed Provincial Bacteriologist, and in 1897 he set up a laboratory near the first Medical College building, which became the diagnostic and epidemiological centre for the province. He was Chair of the Manitoba Board of Health from 1913 to 1917.
One of the first six professors hired by the University of Manitoba, in 1904, the others being Frank Allen (Physics), Reginald Buller (Botany/Geology), Robert Rutherford Cochrane (Mathematics), Matthew Archibald Parker (Chemistry), and Swale Vincent (Physiology and Zoology). He and his colleagues founded the Scientific Club of Winnipeg, in 1905.
On 19 August 1897, he married Grace Campbell McEwen (1872-1936), daughter of Donald McEwen and Jessie Turnbull McEwen, at Brandon, with whom he had two children: Dorothy Bell (1900-1987, wife of John B. Richardson) and Lennox Gordon Bell. In 1912, he learned of a surveyed but undeveloped summer resort area at Fox Lake near Minaki, Ontario. Within a week, he had persuaded some twenty of his friends and associates to join him in buying cottage lots and helping to build a fishing lodge known as Namaycush Fishing Club. For the rest of his life he spent as much time as possible at his cottage and the fishing lodge at Fox Lake. 
He died at Winnipeg on 8 August 1923 of streptococcal sore throat, probably contracted from specimens he had examined at Brandon. He was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery. He is commemorated by Gordon Bell High School.
Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
“Dr. Gordon Bell dies after brief illness,” Manitoba Free Press, 9 August 1923, page 1.
“Mrs. Grace Bell, widow of noted doctor, passes,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 September 1936, page 20.
Obituary [Dorothy Bell Richardson], Winnipeg Free Press, 16 December 1987, page 48.
1. The Gordon Bell Memorial Lecture by E. W. Montgomery.
2. Ibid, page 29.
We thank Alan Crossin for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 16 October 2019
Back to top of page