From Norfolk Roots to Bombay’s Medical Pioneer

Dandeson Coates Bell, born on 23 March 1793, emerged from the humble Norfolk origins of his father, Dr. William Bell, to become a prominent figure in the medical history of Bombay (now Mumbai). His journey from a small English county to the bustling streets of Bombay is a tale of ambition, dedication, and remarkable achievement.

Early Life and Family Background

The eldest son of William Bell, a surgeon and apothecary, and Sarah, Dandeson grew up with his siblings Frederic, Edward, and Charlotte. Details about his early life remain sparse, but it’s known that he was born somewhere in Norfolk. The family environment, steeped in medical practice and care, undoubtedly shaped his future path.

Medical Career and Achievements

Dandeson’s medical career is a narrative of relentless pursuit of excellence. In 1815, he became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (M.R.C.S.) and began his service in the Indian medical field. By 15 May 1816, he had been appointed as an Assistant Surgeon and was recorded in Baghdad. His rise through the ranks was steady and well-earned. He was promoted to Surgeon on 22 July 1823 and eventually became the Supervising Surgeon on 15 January 1840.

His notable contributions during the Scinde War in 1843, particularly at the battles of Dabba and Hyderabad, were a testament to his skill and bravery. Following his valiant service, he was appointed Inspector-General of Hospitals on 1 May 1843, an esteemed position that he held until his retirement on 1 January 1844.

Personal Life and Legacy

On 08 November 1822, Dandeson married Jane Smyttan in Bombay, Maharashtra, India, a connection that possibly links him to the medical Smyttan family in Edinburgh. The couple resided at 7 Darnaway Street in Edinburgh, a house that holds the poignant memory of Dandeson’s passing on 25 August 1854.

The following poor photograph of a portrait was sent by a Bell relative in Australia. It shows Dandeson Coates Bell after his marriage.


The following equally poor photograph is of Jane Bell (nee Smyttan):


Dandeson’s commitment to charitable causes, alongside his son George, further illustrates his compassionate nature. His involvement in the Edinburgh Original Ragged or Industrial School Association highlights his dedication to social welfare and education.


Dandeson Coates Bell’s life journey from Norfolk to Bombay reflects a remarkable transition from a surgeon’s son to a respected medical leader in colonial India. His legacy, characterized by professional excellence and compassionate service, remains an inspiring chapter in the annals of medical history.

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