Tom O. Bell qualified as Bachelor of Arts (BA) at the University of Cambridge. In October 1909 he was appointed on contract as lecturer in botany at the School of Agriculture at Potchefstroom, a position he still held in 1914. During this period he published three papers in the Agricultural Journal of the Union of South Africa. In the first two he described "Maize experiments at the experimental farm, Potchefstroom" (1911, 1912) and in the third "Wheat experiments at the experimental farm, Potchefstroom". For some time around 1910 he was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science.