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Obituary: James Bell

Colleagues will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 16 June 2004, of Dr James W Bell, former Senior Lecturer in Textile Industries.

Dr Bell was born in Leeds and educated at Bradford Grammar School. After taking a First in Colour Chemistry at Leeds in 1945, he subsequently moved to Leicester to take up a post with Wolsey Ltd. He proved a highly capable researcher and was well-liked by his colleagues. However, his keen interest in his subject persuaded him to return to the University of Leeds in September of 1947 as a Research Assistant in the School of Textile Industries, where he studied for and obtained his PhD. Dr Bell was to devote the remainder of his working life to the University.

Dr Bells commitment to the University and to academic life was an inspiration to all those who had the good fortune to work alongside him. As a researcher, he fulfilled his early academic promise by consistently producing meticulous and reliable work across a wide field, including the action of heat on textile fabrics, the measurement of damage in wool materials and the protection of viscose-rayon against micro-organisms. This original research was supplemented by a number of highly regarded review articles.

His contribution to the excellent reputation of the Department was acknowledged by his contemporaries and reflected in the additional responsibility he willingly undertook in acting as an advisor to industry on behalf of the Department and of responding to technical queries received by the Department.

Dr Bell was quickly promoted to Assistant Lecturer, in 1947, and thence to Lecturer in 1952. On completion of the Man Made Fibres Building in 1956 he took over the supervision of the newly introduced printing section and became increasingly interested in the area of printed textile design.

The high technical standards which he established were admired by many teachers of design. His careful attention to detail earned him the respect of the Department and he was warmly congratulated on his appointment to Senior Lecturer in 1965. As a lecturer, Dr Bell carried a very full load of undergraduate teaching in printing techniques, practical finishing and raw materials as well as supervising a large number of MSc and PhD students.

Both his lectures and his practical classes were thoughtful and well-attended and his valuable gift of being able to explain technical issues to the non-specialist was particularly appreciated by new undergraduates. His considerable skills in communication were employed to very good effect in his additional work as the Departmental Admission Tutor, a role in which he enthusiastically promoted the Department to prospective students and to their parents for many years.

Alongside his work within the Department of Textile Industries, Dr Bell was also a generous contributor to the wider work of the University. During his long career, he served with distinction on many University committees, among them the Board of the Faculties of Science and Technology, the Board of the Faculties of Arts, Economics and Social Sciences, and as the Universitys representative on the Governing Body of Ilkley College. The fact that the members of each of these committees were happy to recommend him for several successive terms of office is testimony to the diligence with which Dr Bell undertook his duties.

Although a modest and unassuming man, Dr Bell gave unstintingly of his time and of his considerable energy. He was popular among both colleagues and students for his sincerity and consideration, his willingness to help and his happy ability to always put others at their ease. His early retirement left a hole at the heart of University life as well as within his Department.

Dr Bell retired in September 1983, having loyally served the University for 36 years. He is survived by his wife, Mrs Muriel Bell.

The funeral will take place on Friday 25 June at 2.20pm in Skipton Crematorium.

Published: 22 June 2004