Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium.
He is best known for writing the famous war memorial poem "In Flanders Fields".
McCrae was born in McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario to Lieutenant-Colonel David McCrae and Janet Simpson Eckford; he was the grandson of Scottish immigrants. He attended the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute and became a member of the Guelph militia regiment. The background of his family is military.
McCrae worked on his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto in 1892–93. While there, he was a member of the Toronto militia, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. He was eventually promoted to Captain and commanded the company. He took a year off his studies at the university due to recurring problems with asthma. Among his papers in the John McCrae House in Guelph is a letter he wrote on 18 July 1893 to Laura Kains while he trained as an artilleryman at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. "...I have a manservant .. Quite a nobby place it is, in fact .. My windows look right out across the bay, and are just near the water’s edge; there is a good deal of shipping at present in the port; and the river looks very pretty." He was a resident master in English and Mathematics in 1894 at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph.
He returned to the University of Toronto and completed his B.A. McCrae returned again to study medicine on a scholarship. While attending the university he joined the Zeta Psi Fraternity (Theta Xi chapter; class of 1894) and published his first poems.While in medical school, he tutored other students to help pay his tuition. Two of his students were among the first woman doctors in Ontario. He completed a medical residency at the Robert Garrett Hospital, a children's convalescent home in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1902, he was appointed resident pathologist at Montreal General Hospital and later became assistant pathologist to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. In 1904, he was appointed an associate in medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Later that year, he went to England where he studied for several months and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.
In 1905, he set up his own practice although he continued to work and lecture at several hospitals. The same year, he was appointed pathologist to the Montreal Foundling and Baby Hospital. In 1908, he was appointed physician to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Infectious Diseases. In 1910, he accompanied Lord Grey, the Governor General of Canada, on a canoe trip to Hudson Bay to serve as expedition physician. McCrae served in the artillery during the Second Boer War, and upon his return was appointed professor of pathology at the University of Vermont, where he taught until 1911; he also taught at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. McCrae was the co-author, with J. G. Adami, of a medical textbook, A Text-Book of Pathology for Students of Medicine,
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