John McBean was associated with the East Rand Proprietary Mines in Boksburg, Transvaal, and was a member of the Malacological Society of London from 1901. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he sought refuge in KwaZulu-Natal. He collected land snails there and in the Transvaal during the first few years of the twentieth century. The species Trachycystis mcbeani (McBean's pinwheel), a minute land snail, was named after him by Major M. Connolly* in 1932.
In 1909 McBean was still a member of the Malacological Society of London, but was living in Bournemouth, England.