William Bell Edwards was born in Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks in 1906. He was an engineer and surveyor and worked for local authorities in Oxfordshire, the Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Surrey, Somerset, Yorkshire and Cornwall. Mr Bell Edwards was also a member of the Institution of the Municipal Engineers and of the Institution of Highway Engineers.
Mr Bell Edwards is perhaps best known for developing (and later patenting) a towed device for distributing stone chips evenly on newly-surfaced roads, the so-called Phoenix Edwards spreader. He played a leading role in many important engineering projects across the country, most notably the construction of the new Tamar Road Bridge near Plymouth in 1959-1962.
He was appointed County Surveyor of Cornwall in 1970 and Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1984.
The naming of the Bell Edwards Geographic Data Institute honours Mr Bell Edwards and his pioneering work in the field of Surveying.