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BELL, William Blair- (1871-1936): personal and professional papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1538 S1
Held at: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
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Full title: BELL, William Blair- (1871-1936): personal and professional papers
Date(s): 1913-1931
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 7 boxes
Name of creator(s): Bell | William Blair- | 1871-1936 | President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Blair-Bell (1871-1936) was co-founder (with William Fletcher Shaw) of the College and its first President. The second son of William and Helen Bell, he was born in Wallasey in 1871 and educated at Rossall School, King's College London and King's College Hospital. In 1905 he left general practice in Wallasey and was appointed to the post of Assistant Consultant Gynaecologist to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. In 1918 he became senior surgeon and in 1921 was appointed to the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Liverpool University, a position he held until 1931. In 1929 he married his cousin, Florence.

Blair-Bell was President of the Obstetric Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the North of England Gynaecological Society and the Liverpool Medical Institution. In 1911 he founded the Gynaecological Visiting Society (GVS). He was co-founder of the College in 1929 and presented the College with its first headquarters at 58 Queen Anne Street. He established the money for the William Blair-Bell memorial lectures and for other research projects. He was President of the College from its inception until 1935, the year before his death.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of William Blair-Bell, 1913-1931, comprising personal correspondence, correspondence and papers relating to the treatment of cancer, and letters relating to individual patients; casebooks, 1900-1903, 1908-1911; notebook containing physiological tracings obtained by Blair-Bell and G H Lansdown, 1893; notebook of test results kept for Blair-Bell, 1911 with case notes inserted; Blair-Bell's lecture notebooks, c1904, on topics including chemistry, insanity, anatomy, diseases of the eye, psychology, surgical pathology, zoology, physiology, intestinal obstruction, surgery, tumours: innocent and malignant, midwifery and gynaecology, infectious diseases, diseases of the gall bladder, a sketchbook of histology and loose notes on various medical conditions; notebooks entitled 'catalogue of old books belonging to W Blair Bell', divided into 'general' and 'medical', 1907 and thesis by Helen Standring, 'An investigation of the cause and treatment of uterine inertia', 1928.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Boxes 1-3 are arranged in the following broad categories:

S1/1-6: Miscellaneous personal correspondence on a wide range of topics.

S1/7-12: Correspondence, research papers, and reports concerned mainly with treatment for cancer.

S1/13-62: Correspondence mainly from practitioners referring patients or from patients with some replies from Blair-Bell.

It is unclear whether the current arrangement of the papers is the original administrative arrangement or was made by the auctioneer breaking the papers up into separate lots. The papers in S1/9a however were extracted and filed together by Sir John Peel.

Boxes 4-7 are unsorted.

Conditions governing access:

The majority of these records are available for research, by prior appointment, and dependent on data protection, confidentiality and conservation considerations. Some material currently awaiting cataloguing is on restricted access. Please contact the College Archivist & Records Manager for more information

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: vested in the estate of William Blair-Bell. Copyright expires in 2007.

Finding aids:

A general index to the files listed in the catalogue of the Archives of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is maintained in the College Archives; refer to the College Archivist. Boxes 1-3 have a detailed catalogue available in the College Archives. There are no additional finding aids for boxes 4-7.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers need to be studied in conjunction with the papers in S10 which were deposited on loan in the College by the Datnow family trustees in 1988. It is highly likely that the papers in S1 were separated from the papers in S10 as a result of a theft.

Immediate source of acquisition:

This collection of Blair-Bell's personal and professional papers was bought at auction by the College in 1986, except for S1/3a which was donated by Edward Datnow.

Allied Materials

Related material:

RCOG Archives holds the College Archivist's and College Librarian's correspondence relating to acquisition of the Blair-Bell papers (Refs: at A10/2 and B6/6); Blair-Bell papers deposited by the Datnow family (Ref: S10); other memorabilia relating to Blair-Bell (Refs: S14 and S18); Blair-Bell's papers as College President (Ref: A4/1); photographs of Blair-Bell (Refs: PH1/1, PH7/4, PH7/9, PH7/13/1-2, PH7/16/5, PH7/18/1, PH7/18/15 and PH7/19/2).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Biographical details of the individuals who have presented material to the College and/or comprise the subject of the records, have been compiled using information in administrative files and, where relevant, consulting Sir John Peel's book The Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 1929-1969, Whitefriars Press Ltd, 1975. Compiled by Clare Cowling, Archivist, RCOG.

Rules or conventions:
National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997; ISAD(G), Second Edition, 2000.

Date(s) of descriptions:
September 2000

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