John Bell Simpson was born in Ryton Woodside in 1837, the son of Robert Simpson (one of the original members of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers). Simpson attended Dr. Collingwood Bruce School in Newcastle and served as a mining apprentice to his father.
Simpson worked at the Stella Coal Company’s collieries in Ryton, helping to develop them into a small concern with an output of one million tons per year. He was in charge of the Wallsend and Hebburn collieries. He worked as a mining engineer to the Throckley Coal Company and was managing director of Elswick Colliery. Simpson was the Director of the Wallsend and Hebburn Coal Company Limited and also of Walter Scott Limited. He acted as a mining adviser to a number of royalty owners.
In 1860 Simpson became a member of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers and was appointed as President for the years 1891 to 1893. Later Simpson went on to be named the President of the Institution of Mining Engineers for 1909 to 1911. He was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers; a Fellow of the Geological Society of London; and a member of Council of Armstrong College. He contibuted to the costs of erecting the King Edward VII School of Art, and Durham University conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law (DCL).
Simpson was chariman of the Ryton Local Board and Urban District Council for 50 years. He was also an Alderman of the County Council of Durham. Further, he was a director of the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company and the Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company, Limited.
As a personal interest, Simpson studied archeology and the archeology of mining. Through this interest, he visited Egypt.
John Bell Simpson died on the 26th of April 1926.
(These notes are based mainly on the memoir in Transactions – Institution of Mining Engineers 72 1926-27, 9-10)