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No college tribute for Belfast scientist John Stewart Bell


John Stewart Bell was nominated for the Nobel Prize before his death

John Stewart Bell was nominated for the Nobel Prize before his death

John Stewart Bell was nominated for the Nobel Prize before his death

Plans to honour one of Northern Ireland's most eminent scientists have been dealt a second blow.

Last month Belfast City Council refused to name a street after John Stewart Bell to avoid setting any controversial precedent.

And now the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Mr Bell's alma mater has no plans to name any of its new buildings after him either.

Mr Bell initially studied at Belfast Technical College - now Belfast Metropolitan College -before going on to Queen's University and later gaining a prestigious job with the European Council for Nuclear Research, where he worked on theoretical particle physics and accelerator design. The scientist, who was born to humble beginnings in Belfast in 1928, was nominated for a Nobel prize in 1990 - but tragically he could not win it after dying of a cerebral haemorrhage that year.

Belfast Met and Queen's University lobbied councillors to name a street in Titanic Quarter after him.

But councillors voted against it because they argued the council had a convention of never naming streets after people. Sinn Fein councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir revealed that councillors had had their "knuckles rapped" by the institutions for refusing the suggestion. However, despite Mr O Muilleoir's proposal to get the decision overturned, the majority of councillors stood by it.

Some councillors suggested that Belfast Met could name one of its new buildings in honour of Mr Bell.

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But the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that despite founding a new Titanic Quarter campus, in the vicinity of the proposed street at the centre of the row, the college has no plans to name a building after him.

"Belfast Met has been making a contribution to the social and economic success of the city for over 100 years," a spokeswoman said.

"Many of Northern Ireland's most eminent engineers, scientists, artists and inventors either studied or worked at the college.

"We are extremely proud to count such an esteemed physicist as John Stewart Bell among our ranks. His contribution and that of others is recognised and preserved though the valuable work of our Heritage Lottery Project Group and the rich archive of material it has collated.

"Belfast Met has no plans at present (to honour Bell), although the recent publicity has certainly served to inspire our current intake of scientists."


John Stewart Bell was born in Belfast in 1928 to a deprived background.

His family could not afford to send him to a grammar school. Instead, he attended Belfast Technical College, and then entered Queen's University.

Bell rose to become one of the world's greatest quantum physicists and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1990, but died before he could be receive it. The first John Bell Day and exhibition is set to be held at Queen's on November 4.

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