Eric Temple Bell lived from 7 February 1883 to 21 December 1960. He was a mathematician and a science fiction writer who published his fiction under the name John Taine. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Eric Temple Bell was born in the fishing port of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, where his father was a fish trader. In 1884 the family, complete with 15 month old Eric, moved to San Jose in California. His father died in early 1896, and Eric moved with his mother to Bedford in England. In 1902 Bell, by now aged 19, returned to the United States via Canada. Back in the States, Bell studied mathematics and undertook research at a number of universities, including Stanford, Columbia, the University of Washington and later the California Institute of Technology.
Bell became known for his research in number theory, and he developed the Bell series, a formal power series used to study properties of arithmetical functions. His name is also remembered in Bell polynomials and the Bell numbers of combinatorics. In 1924 he was awarded the annual Bôcher Memorial Prize by the American Mathematical Society for his work in mathematical analysis.
In 1916 Bell published a book of poetry and in the 1920s he started to develop an interest in science fiction. Between 1927 and 1954 he published 13 science fiction novels under the pseudonym John Taine. In 1937 he also published, as Eric Temple Bell, Men of Mathematics. Essentially a book of biographical sketches of famous mathematicians, it is said to have done much to popularise mathematics, though some critics felt he went out of his way to glamorise some of the subjects covered. Bell died in 1960 in Watsonville, California.