Dr. Charles Fredric Gell, 73, a retired Navy Captain who specialized in aviation physiology and aerospace medicine for the Navy Department and who later served as director of life sciences in the Astronautics Division of the Ling-Temco-Vought Corp. in Texas, died of cardiac arrest Friday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

Dr. Gell's 23 years of service in the Navy Medical Corps were spent primarily in aviation medical laboratories. During his naval career he served as head of the physiology and nuclear medicine departments of the School of Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., as director of the Naval Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory in Johnsville, Pa., and as director of the Naval Crew Equipment Laboratory in Philadelphia.

During World War II, he saw sea duty as a senior medical officer, flight surgeon and naval aviator aboard the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga and USS Monterey.

His last assignment before retiring from the Navy in 1960, was as special assistant for medicine and applied sciences in the Office of Naval Research here.

Dr. Gell then worked for the Ling-Temco-Vought Corp. in Dallas, until 1966, when he was appointed chief scientist at the Navy's Submarine Medical Research Laboratory at Groton, Conn. He retired a second time in 1974.

A native of Chicago, he graduated from Loyola University in Chicago in 1934 and earned a medical degree there in 1936. After an internship at a Chicago hospital, Dr. Gell did graduate work in physiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Medicine, earning a master of science degree in 1953.

He then became an assistant professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania's physiology department and subsequently served as a visiting professor of physiology and a lecturer in aviation medicine there and at Temple University's Medical School.

Dr. Gell was a consultant on bio-medical research for the Department of Defense and served on a number of national and international committees. He served on the Advisory Group for Aviation Research and Development for NATO and on many other advisory committees.

He wrote more than 60 articles on physiology and aviation medicine, space flight problems, aeronautics and astronautics for professional journals.

Dr. Gell was a member of numerous professional associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Physiological Society, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the Naval Institute and the International Academy of Aviation.

He was a Fellow of the Aero-space Medical Association, the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

His many awards include the John Jeffries Award from the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, the Theodore Lyster Award from the Aerospace Medical Association, the Melbourne W. Boynton Award from the American Astronautical Society and an award from the Navy Department for "direction of aviation medical research in World War II."

A resident of Bethesda, Dr. Gell had lived here permanently for about two years. He was married for 42 years to the former Edna Anne Leddin, who died in 1978.

Survivors include two daughters, Mada-Anne and Shaun-Marie Gell, both of Bethesda; two sons, Carl L. of Washington, and Michael F. of Dallas, and five grandchildren.