Andrew Bell (1753-1832)

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Rev. Andrew Bell (1753-1832) bequeathed funds which led to the foundation of the Bell Chair of Education at Edinburgh University in 1876.

Andrew Bell was born in St Andrews, Fife, in 1753 and graduated from St Andrews University. He was later ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England. In 1787 he sailed to India to take up a number of chaplaincies linked with the East India Company. In 1789 he became Superintendent of a seminary for male orphans of the military in Madras. Here he developed the working principles of his monitorial system. From the older and more able boys he selected a number who would act as monitors. These would be instructed by the schoolmaster and in turn instructed a group of up to thirty children. Because of his success with this method he went on to advocate that it had universal applicability and was ‘of importance to the whole human race.’ He returned to England in 1796 and two years later established the London Charity School where he applied his methods. Schools founded on Bell principles were subsequently established across England and Scotland.

Before he died in 1832, Bell transferred £120,000 of his estate to trustees. Part of this was committed to St Andrews principally to support the establishment of a secondary school: Madras College. By a separate deed the residue of his estate, some £25,000, was used to set up a trust dedicated ‘to the maintaining, carrying forward, and following up the system of education introduced by him, according to circumstances and occasion, and the existing state of things.’ The trustees gave sums to a number of different schools, including one in Leith. But after the 1872 Education Act the trust still had £18,000 remaining. The trustees agreed to contribute to the foundation of a Bell Professorship in the Theory, History, and Practice of Education at Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities. These two Chairs were instituted in 1876 and were the first Professorships of Education founded in any English-speaking country.


  • Hugh Perfect, 'History of Professional Training at Moray House' [[1], accessed 7 December 2017]