Bell, Robert Edward

Robert Edward Bell, nuclear physicist, university educator (b at New Malden, Eng 29 Nov 1918; d at Vancouver, BC 1 Apr 1992). After graduating from the University of British Columbia (BA 1939, MA 1941), he worked on RADAR development at the NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL during WWII. He resumed his graduate studies at McGill in 1945, and received his PhD in nuclear physics in 1948 while already a member of the research staff of the Canadian Atomic Energy Project at Chalk River (now Laurentian Hills), Ont.

In 1952 he joined the staff of McGill, and was appointed Ernest Rutherford Professor of Physics in 1960, becoming emeritus professor of physics upon retiring in 1983. He held several important positions at McGill, including principal and vice-chancellor (1970-79). In addition to being an internationally renowned nuclear physicist, he was a highly successful university educator.

Bell was best known for his scientific contributions to the study of the nuclear interaction energy between a proton and a neutron, the invention of the direct timing method for measuring nuclear processes down to a fraction of a billionth of a second, and the discovery of proton radioactivity. His accomplishments brought him prestigious fellowships in the American Physical Society (1954), the Royal Society of Canada (1955) and the Royal Society of London (1965).

He was the recipient of the 1968 Medal for Achievement in Physics of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP), honorary doctorate degrees from 10 leading Canadian universities, and was made Companion of the Order of Canada (1971). He was president of CAP (1965-66), and of the Royal Society of Canada (1978-81). He was Canadian delegate to the NATO Science Committee (1981-90), and he served as director of the Arts, Sciences and Technology Centre in Vancouver (1983-85).