Major General Dr. George Ansel Sterling Ryerson, soldier, regimental surgeon, later Colonel-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, founder of the Red Cross movement in Canada, and politician, was born in Toronto on 21 January 1855 the son of George Ryerson and Isabella Dorcas Sterling.
He studied in Galt and then at the Trinity Medical School in Toronto, receiving his MD in 1876. He continued his studied in Europe. In 1880, he set up practice in Toronto and also lectured on eye, ear and throat diseases at Trinity Medical School. Ryerson was also surgeon at the Andrew Mercer Eye and Ear Infirmary.
He began his military career as a Private in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and 1870 served in the Fenian Raids. In 1881 he was appointed surgeon to the Royal Grenadiers in Toronto and in 1885 he accompanied them to the North-West Rebellion, was present at Batoche and used a flag marked with a red cross to protect his horse-drawn ambulance. (This flag is currently the property of the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library). In 1895 he was promoted Surgeon Major and awarded the 3rd class decoration of the Order of St. John.
He was elected to the legislative assembly in an 1893 by-election and reelected in 1894. He did not run in 1898 due to poor health. In 1896, Ryerson helped establish the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario. In 1902, he failed to secure nomination by the Conservative Party when he attempted to run for election in Toronto North.
In 1896 Ryerson organized a Canadian branch (Toronto) of the British Red Cross Society, which raised money for the relief of combatants in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and in 1899 distributed medical supplies during the South African War. In 1897 he took part in the military display in London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 1882 he married Miss. Mary A. Crowther, lost on the Lusitania May 1915, and later married Miss. Elizabeth Thomas.
In 1900 during the Boer War was attached to Lord Roberts’ Headquarters. Ryerson helped found the Association of Medical Officers of the Canadian Militia and served as president from 1908 to 1909. He served during the First World War and later became an Honorary Major-General and eventually Colonel-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
He had a son, George Crowther Ryerson, who served with the Queen’s Own Rifles and joined the 3rd (Toronto Regiment) Battalion, CEF during the First World War. He was killed in action on April 23, 1915.
He retired 1920 from his medical practice and moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Elizabeth died on September 4, 1924. Ryerson died of a heart attack in Toronto in 1925.