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Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2007 Dec;85(8):897-901. Epub 2007 Aug 2.

Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842): contributions to neuro-ophthalmology.

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Department of History of Medicine, Karol Marcinkowski University Medical School, Poznan, Poland.


Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842) was a Scottish anatomist, physiologist, neurologist, artist and surgeon, who enjoyed a distinguished career in teaching and clinical practice in London between 1804 and 1836. In 1814, he was appointed to the surgical staff of the Middlesex Hospital. In 1824, he was elected Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and shortly afterwards was elected Professor of Physiology at the University of London. In 1831, he was knighted on the accession of William IV. In 1836, he was elected to the Chair of Surgery in the University of Edinburgh, and remained there until his death in 1842, at 68 years of age. During his career, Bell was a prolific medical author, a brilliant medical researcher and a skilled artist. In 1811, he discovered the distinct functions of the motor and sensory nerves, findings that were initially published in a pamphlet entitled 'Ideas of a New Anatomy of the Brain'. In 1821, Bell described the long thoracic nerve, which supplies the serratus anterior muscle, and which now bears his name. In the same paper he showed that lesions of the seventh cranial nerve produce facial paralysis (now termed Bell's palsy). He also demonstrated that the fifth cranial nerve is of sensory importance to the face and controls the muscles of mastication, whereas the seventh cranial nerve principally controls the muscles of facial expression. Bell published research on a number of ophthalmological subjects. This paper reviews some of these latter achievements.

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