Charles Bell

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Charles Bell

Sir Charles Bell KH FRS FRSE FRCSE MWS (12 November 177428 April 1842) was a Scottish surgeon, anatomist, neurologist, and philosophical theologian. He is noted for discovering the difference between sensory nerves and motor nerves in the spinal cord. He is also noted for describing Bell's palsy.


  • I should be writing a third paper on the Nerves, but I cannot proceed without making some experiments, which are so unpleasant to make that I defer them. You may think me silly, but I cannot perfectly convince myself that I am authorised in nature, or religion, to do these cruelties—for what?—for anything else than a little egotism or self-aggrandisement; and yet, what are my experiments in comparison with those which are daily done? and are done daily for nothing. So my employment is, correcting the press of my new edition of the Anatomy, and writing notes for my Physiology, which I mean to make an additional volume to the Anatomy.
    • Letter to his brother on 1 July 1822; in Letters of Sir Charles Bell, K.H., F.R.S.L. & E. Selected from his Correspondence with his Brother, George Joseph Bell, London: John Murray, 1870, pp. 275-276.
  • In concluding these papers, I hope I may be permitted to offer a few words in favour of anatomy, as better adapted for discovery than experiment. … Experiments have never been the means of discovery; and a survey of what has been attempted of late years in physiology, will prove that the opening of living animals has done more to perpetuate error, than to confirm the just views taken from the study of anatomy and natural motions.
    • An Exposition of the Natural System of the Nerves of the Human Body. With a Republication of the Papers Delivered to the Royal Society, on the Subject of the Nerves, London: Spottiswoode, 1824, pp. 376-377.

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