Head-shot of white-bearded Dr. Bill in 2019.

Professor Emeritus William Kenyon Stell

Pronouns: he, him, his


Full Member

Hotchkiss Brain Institute

Child Health & Wellness Researcher

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

Professor Emeritus

Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy

Contact information

Phone number

Office: +1 (403) 938-9339

Preferred method of communication

email: wstell@ucalgary.ca


Educational Background

B.A. Zoology High Honors, Swarthmore College, 1961

Doctor of Medicine with Honors Medicine, University of Chicago, 1967

Doctor of Philosophy Anatomy, University of Chicago, 1966


Dr. Stell was born, raised and educated in the northeastern United States, the older child of art and language teachers. He graduated with a B.A. in Zoology (High Honors) from Swarthmore College and then entered the University of Chicago, where he earned a Ph.D. in Anatomy and an M.D. (Honors). During the first year of medical school he developed a passion for understanding the retina and vision. He likes to claim that the great Spanish neuroanatomist, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, was his principal teacher ; indeed, he learned how to perform the Golgi silver-chromate method and developed an understanding of retinal circuitry through Cajal’s timeless monograph, La Rétine des Vertébrés (The Vertebrate Retina; 1893). In his self-designed Ph.D. thesis, Bill introduced the Golgi-EM method and used it to identify connections of rods and cones with specific bipolar and horizontal cells for the first time, in the goldfish retina. After serving 5 years as postdoctoral fellow at the N.I.H - 2 of them in military-equivalent service in the US Public Health Service - in 1972 he joined the Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA, where he continued his studies of outer-retinal circuits in goldfish and produced an enduring model accounting for the main properties of color-coding in cone horizontal cells. In 1980 he moved to the University of Calgary, where he directed the Lions’ Sight Centre for many years and produced new works on retinal neuropeptides and efferent fibers. Hearing a lecture on myopia by the late Josh Wallman in 1990 led him to see myopia (near- or short-sightedness) as a novel indicator of retinal function and malfunction, and from then on he sought mainly to understand the retinal circuitry and signalling mechanisms responsible for myopia. He was also deeply involved in research on inherited retinal diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), through the RP Foundation of Canada (now Fighting Blindness Canada). Another favourite activity is mentoring young people, regarding science, research, careers, and life itself, and he continues to do thaat in retirement. He is proud to have participated in the training of a number of successful and well-known retina and myopia research scientists, including Professors Andrew Ishida and David Marshak (from UCLA), and Bärbel Rohrer and Andy Fischer, and future professors Hope Qing Shi, Brittany Carr, and Derek Waldner (From UofC). Although he retired from the university faculty in June, 2020 - sadly missing a "2020 VISION" retirement celebration because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions - he is still involved in research on the eye, retina, and vision, as official scientific advisor to younger scientists in research groups in Singapore and mainland China. His motto is, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming” [Goethe]. And because he tries not to take himself too seriously, and loves making puns, he asks his students (and you) to address him as "Dr. Bill," the 'doctor bill' you don't have to pay.


Participation in university strategic initiatives


  • award, 2015
  • ARVO Gold Fellow, 2012
  • ARVO Silver Fellow, 2009
  • award, 2009

More Information

Please consult his CV for details.