John Bell was a distinguished Scottish anatomist and surgeon. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, Bell opened the Extramural School of Anatomy, where he hoped to teach anatomy beneficial to improving the skills of surgeons.
Bell created Engravings, Explaining the Anatomy of the Bones, Muscles, and Joints for his students, drawing the illustrations himself. He made the engravings for most of the illustrations as well. Bell’s images invoke a ghoulish quality reminiscent of Romantic-era Gothic novels. He and his younger brother Charles Bell, also a surgeon and artist, collaborated on several anatomy texts.
John Bell’s popularity with students resulted in professional jealousy by surgeons at the Royal Infirmary, where he practiced. His colleagues’ resentment and his combative attitude prevented him from assuming a more significant role at the Infirmary. He retired to Italy for his health and died there in 1820.