Dr Andrew Bell was born in St Andrews in 1753. Having graduated and travelled in America, he afterwards went to India where he became an army chaplain. Here he also had supervision and control of the education of the military asylum. In this he was almost without assistance and he came up with the idea of using the elder scholars during part of the day for teaching the younger pupils while carrying on with their studies. This became known as the Monitorial system, which led the way to the appointment of Pupil Teachers. He judged that the experiment was a success and capable of being used universally.

After returning to England in 1797 he explained his method in a pamphlet. He died in 1832, bequeathing his large fortune almost entirely to educational uses.

Dr Bell’s Family Centre grew from a community vision. A need was perceived for support for families with young children in Leith, and the determination of local people and local agencies made the dream into a reality.  Set up as a partnership between local people, Edinburgh City Council and NHS Lothian, Dr Bell’s Family Centre opened in August 2006 following a five year period of development.