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Alexander Milton Ross, M.D.


Montreal, the eminent Canadian Philanthropist, Scientist and Author, has had a career of striking interest. He was born on December 13th, 1832, in Bellesville, Ontario. His parents were desendants of Scotch Highlanders, who came to Canada from Ross-shire, Scotland, in 1758. In his boyhood he made his way to New York city, and after struggling with many advertisites, became a compositor in the office of the Evening Post, then edited and owned by Willian Cullen Bryant, the poet. Mr Bryant became much interested in young Ross, and ever after remained his steadfast friend. It was during this period that he became acquainted with General Garibaldi, who at that time was a resident of New York, and employed in making candles. This acquaintance soon ripened into a warm friendship, which continued unbroken down to Garibaldi's death in 1882. It was through Dt. Ross's efforts in 1874 that Garibaldi obtained his pension from the Italian government. In 1851, Dr. Ross began the study of medicine, under the direction of the celebrated Dr. Valentine Mott, and subsequently under Dr. Trall, the hydropathist. After four years of unremitting toil, working as compositor during the day and studying medicine at night, he received his degree of M.D. in 1855, and shortly after received the appointment of surgeon in the army of Micaragua, then commanded by General William Walker. He subsequently became actively and earnestly engaged in the anti-slavery struggle in the United States, which culminated in th eliberation from bondage of four million slaves. Dr. Ross was a personal friend and co-worker of Captain John Brown, the martyr. Although Dr. Ross's sphere of labour in that great struggle for human freedom was less public than that of many other workers in the cause, it was not less important, and required the exercise of greater caution, courage and determination, and also involved greater personal risk. Senator Wade, vice-president of the United States, said, in speaking of the abolitionists: "Never in the history of the world did the same number of men perform so great an amount of good for the human race and for their country as the once despised abolitionists, and it is my duty to add that no one of their number submitted to greater privations, perils or sacrifices, or did more in the great and noble work than Alexander Ross." He has received the benediction of the philanthropists and poet, Whittier, in the following noble words, which find their echo in the hearts of thousands:-

"Dr. A. M. Ross.

"For his steadfast strength and courage
In a dark and evil time,
When the Golden Rule was treason,
And to feed the hungry crime.

"For the poor slave's hope and refuge,
When the hound was on his track,
And saint and sinner, state and church,
Joined hands to send him back.

"Blessings upon him!- What he did
For each sad, suffering one,
Chained, hunted, scourged and bleeding,
Unto our Lord was done.

John G. Whittier,
Secretary of the Convention in 1833, which formed the American Anti-Slavery Society."

The sincere radical abolitionists, with whom Dr. Ross was labouring, were despised, hated and ostracised by the rich, the powerful and the so-called higher classes; but Dr. Ross always possessed the courage of his opinions, and preferred the approval of his own conscience to the smiles or favours of men. During the Southern rebellion he was employed by President Lincoln as confidential correspondent in Canada, and rendered very important services to the United States government. For this he received the special thanks of President Lincoln and Secretary Seward. When the war ended, with the downfall of the Confederacy, Dr. Ross offered his services to President Juarez, of Mexico, and received the appointment of surgeon in the Republican army. The capture of Maximillian, and the speedy overthrow of the empire, rendered Dr. Ross's services unnecessary, and he returned to Canada and to the congenial and more peaceful pursuits of a naturalist. The onject of his ambition now was to collect and classify the fauna and flora of his native country, a labour never before attempted by a Canadian. He has collected and classified 570 species of birds that regularly or occasionally visit the Dominion of Canada; 240 species of eggs of birds that breed in Canada; 247 species of mammals, reptiles, and freshwater fish; 3,400 species of insects; and 2,200 species of Canadian flora. The Montreal Herald, of August 19, 1844, says:- "Dr. Ross has been a member of the British Association of Science for the last fourteen years, and of the french and American Associations for the past ten years. The following bried sketch will, therefore, prove doubly interesting in view of the approaching gathering of scientific men in this city. He has devoted special attention to the ornithology, ichthyology, botany and entomology of Canada; has personally made large and valuable collections of the fauna and flora of Canada; has enriched by his contributions the natural history museums of Paris, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Rome, Athens, Dresden, Lisbon, Teheran and cairo with collections of Canadian fauna and flora. He is author of "Birds of Canada" (1872), "Butterflies and Moths of Canda" (1873), "Flora of Canada" (1873), "Forrest Trees of Canada" (1874), "Mammals, Reptiles, and Freshwater Fishes of Canada" (1878), "Recollections of an Abolitionist" (1867), and "Ferns and Wild Flowers of Canada" (1877). He received the degrees of M.D. (1855), and M.A. (1867); and was knighted by the Emporor of Russia (1876), King of Italy (1876), King of Greece (1867_, King of Portugal (1877), king of Saxony (1876) and the Shah of Persia (1882), and received the decoration of honour from the Khedive of Egypt, and the decoration of the Palm Leaf from the government of France (1879). He was offered (and declined) the title of Baron by the King of Bavaria, in recognition of his labours as a naturalist. Dr. Ross was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Linnean and Zoological Societies of England; the Royal Societies of Antiquaries of Denmark and Greece; the Imperial Society of Naturalists of Russia; the Imperial Botanical and Zoological Society of Austria; the Royal Academy of Science of Palermo, Italy; a member of the Entomological Societies of Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Bohemia and Wurtemburg." For several years past Dr. Ross has laboured with his characteristic zeal and energy in behalf of moral and physical reform. He is always on the side of the poor and the oppressed, no matter how unpopular the cause may be. He does his duty as he sees it, regardless of consequences to himself. During the smallpox epidemic in Montreal (in 1885), Dr. Ross was a promient opponent of vaccination, declaring that it was not only useless as a preventative of small-pox, but, that it propagated the disease, when practiced during the existene of an epidemic. In place of vaccination he strongly advocates the strict enforecement of sanitation and isolation. He maintains that personal and municipal cleanliness is the only scientific safeguard against zymotic diseases. Dr. Ross is a resident of Montreal, and a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.


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