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Charles Bernard Bell, Jr.

  • Ethnicity: African American
  • Gender: M
  • Year of Birth: 1928
  • Place of Birth: New Orleans, Louisiana


  • PhD Institution: University of Notre Dame, 1953
  • MS Institution: University of Notre Dame, 1948
  • BS Institution: Xavier University, 1947


"For many years in Louisiana on each Sunday, 19 cousins and I would get together to share, relate to family and learn more about our family. Even today I am fascinated with the genealogy of my extended family. Though our family is but a ripple in the sea of humanity, the more I learn the more intrigued I am with mankind." Charles B. Bell, 1996.

Charles Bernard Bell, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in August of 1928. He was the only son of Charles Bernard Bell, Sr. and Estell Thomas Bell. This union also produced one daughter: Elaine Bell Oliver who chose to become an elementary school teacher. She added to an impressive legacy of the Bell and Thomas families who had relations to teach, collectively, for more than 400 years. Charles enrolled in Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 16 and at 19 he earned a BS degree in mathematics and statistics in 1947. In 1948, he earned a MS degree from the University of Notre Dame and earned his Ph.D. in 1953 from the same university. It was also in 1953 that Bell married Mary Bell of Tuskegee, Alabama. The Bells have four children: Charles, Elaine, Karen and Sandra. The Bells did extensive traveling together as a family in the 1950's and 1960's both in the USA and abroad. Mrs. Bell is a French teacher and she enjoys speaking different languages along with Dr. Bell and their children.

Bell had an illustrious career as a world class mathematican-statistician in academia and industry. He began his teaching in 1949-1951 as a graduate TA at Notre Dame. In 1951 he accepted a position as a Research Engineer with the Douglas Aircraft Company. He remained with Douglas until 1955. He returned to his undergraduate alma mater, Xavier University, as an assistant professor of mathematics and physics for the next two years (1955-57). In the fall of 1957, Dr. Bell went to Stanford University as a Research Associate in statistics and as mathematics instructor for one year (1957-1958).

In 1958 he joined the faculty of San Diego State University where he remained until 1966; he was officially on leave in Europe from 1964-1966. The summer of 1964 was spent at The Mathematics Institute in Amsterdam. The 1964-65 academic year was spent at the University of Madrid and the summer of 1965 was spent at the University of Vienna. The 1965-66 academic year was spent at the Institute of Statistics at the University of Paris and the 1966 summer was spent at the University of Erlangen in Germany. The last two weeks of summer in 1966 were spent at the Mathematics Conference in Moscow. Bell, a lover of languages, spoke the language of each of the countries in which he resided. When he returned to the USA, Bell accepted a position as Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Case Western Reserve University for two years (1966-68) and then joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1968; remaining there until 1971. During the summer of 1968, Bell worked with African Mathematicians in Marsabit, Kenya and with Indian mathematicians in Calcutta, India. Additionally, during the summer of 1969, he spent time in Nigeria developing courses in mathematics for teachers.

Bell was a professor of mathematics at Tulane University from 1971-1977. During the summer of 1972, he was at the University of Gutenberg in Germany, and for the 1975-76 academic year, he took a leave of absence and spent the time at the National Science Foundation. From 1977 to 1981, Bell was a professor of Biostatistics at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1981 he returned to San Diego State University as a professor of Mathematical Sciences. He remained there until his retirement in June of 1992. During an eighteen month period in 1990-1991, Bell was on leave at Stanford University.

For 41 years he enjoyed a very involved, scholarly and productive career in the teaching of mathematics and statistics as well as being a prolific researcher in his areas of specialty: nonparametric statistics, stochastic processes and related application areas. He produced around 40 publications, an average of one per year along with one technical volume in Distribution Statistics. Moreover, he was very involved in professional organizations in mathematics and statistics, including the American Statistics Association (ASA), American Mathematical Society, Soc. Espanola Inv. Op. and National Association of Mathematicians (NAM). During the years he received many recognitions/awards including being elected a Fellow in the Institute of Math. Statistics and a Fellow in the ASA. He was also selected to be the Keynote Speaker at NAM's Tenth Anniversary Celebration in 1979. If you ask Bell what has he done most of his life, he would say: "I enjoy family, I enjoy eating gumbo and for more than four decades I enjoyed teaching mathematics and statistics and doing research in nonparametric statistics, stochastic processes and related problems and applications."

[Johnny L. Houston, The Executive Secretary of NAM]

This biography first appeared in the NAM Newsletter, Winter Issue, 1990, p. 5. It has been reprinted with permission from NAM.