Colin Leonard Malcolm Bell was born in Lambeth at the end of 1931, the only child of Leonard and Winifred Bell. His parents moved to Bognor Regis, Sussex, where he grew up, attending Nyewood C.E. Infant and Junior Schools, and singing in the choir at St Wilfrid's Church. He proceeded to Chichester High School for Boys, excelling at maths, and was awarded a State Scholarship. He read chemistry at Lincoln College, Oxford University, from 1952-6.
A month after graduation, he married Hazel Macaulife, who had grown up at Felpham, near Bognor Regis. They met when she was working as a holiday camp waitress in the holiday between leaving school and starting at university -- he as a bus conductor sold her tickets on her rides to work. A month after Colin's graduation, Hazel and Colin were married, at St Mary's Church, Felpham. Hazel had a further year to complete her degree at Reading University, and for a year they had a bed-sitter in Maida Vale while Hazel lived in Reading during the week. After a year living in New Barnet, they moved to Welwyn Garden City, spending seven years in Stanborough Green flats; then moved in 1963 to their own bungalow at The Ryde, Hatfield.
Colin started work as a research chemist in 1956, at British Rubber Research & Development Association in Tewin Road, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. The organization changed its premises once and its title four times during Colin's lifelong career there. When Malaya received its independence, the British Rubber Research & Development Association became Natural Rubber Research & Development Association; subsequently, the Malaysian Rubber Research & Development Association; and Colin finally retired from the Tun Abdul Razak Laboratory.
With the emergence of computers in the 1970s, Colin became head of MRPRA's computer department. In 1972-3, he took leave of absence to work in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Princeton University, New Jersey, with Prof. John Gillham, who writes of that time: "It was an energetic and exciting period in my life. ... At a crucial point Colin helped my career immensely using his very sharp and sophisticated mind and his practical and enthusiastic style. He considered other people's problems more interesting than his own... Colin was one of the most influential people in my own life. We got on very well because he was more than a scientist. It didn't hurt that he loved Mozart".
Colin spent some periods working in Kuala Lumpur. In 1993 he was awarded
a Gold Medal Class II, "in recognition of his outstanding accomplishment and dedicated service in the cause of Malaysian Natural Rubber."
Comments from Colin's colleagues at MRPRA include:
"He had a questing mind and a remarkable ability to solve problems by starting from scratch and adopting an innovative approach." "He was such a great colleague." "Colin was well liked and respected at work. He was always so friendly with a smile on his face." "He was a great tutor who taught me well. He was one of the fairest people I have known". "Colin was a first-class engineer: in Continental Europe the accolade Engineer is worth more than that of doctor or professor: he was an engineer in that sense".
Colin and Hazel celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 2006.
Colin died after some months of illness in St Christopher's nursing home, Hatfield, on 27 January, 2010, aged 78.
His publications include:
'Physical testing and automation' in Natural
Rubber Science and Technology (OUP, 1988)
'The Automatic Extraction of Words from Texts Especially for Input into Information Retrieval Systems Based on Inverted Files' (with Kevin P.Jones) in SIGIR, 1984: 409-420 and Proceedings of the third joint BCS and ACM symposium, King's College, Cambridge, July 2-6 1984
'Computerized indexing need not be impossible' (with Kevin P. Jones) in The Indexer vol. 11, 1979
'Automatic recording dilatometer' in Journal of Scientific Instruments, 1961
'Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Studies and Coal Structure' in Brennstoff-Chemie, 1958
Am. Chem. Soc., Div. Polym. Chem., Prepr., (with Gillham, J. K. & Benci, J. A) 15 (1) (1974) 542-548
Tech. Pap. Annu. Tech. Conf., Soc. Plast. Eng., (with Gillham, J. K. & Benci, J. A) 20 (1974) 598-600
'The development of a highly interactive searching technique for morphs--Minicomputer operated retrieval (partially heuristic) system' (with Kevin P. Jones) in Inf. Process. Manage. 16(1): 37-47 (1980)
'A Minicomputer Retrieval System with Automatic Root Finding and Roling Facilities' (with Kevin P. Jones) in Program: electronic library and information systems 1976: Volume: 10, Issue: 1; Pages: 14 -27
'Towards everyday language information retrieval systems via minicomputers' in Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology Volume 30 Issue 6, Pages 334 - 339
'Oxidative Scission of Natural Polyisoprenes in Solution' in Transactions of the Rubber Industry Volume: 41, No. 5, 1965
'Development of a fully automated torsional pendulum with built-in data reduction facilities' (with J. K. Gillham and J. S. Benci) in Society of Plastic Engineers, Technical Papers Volume: 20, Pages 598-600, 1974
`Measurement of tensile strength of natural rubber vulcanizates at elevated temperature' (with David Stinson and A. G. Thomas), in Rubber Chemistry and Technology, The Rubber Division, American Chemical Society, Volume: 55 No. 1, March-April 1982, pages 66-75