Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD (November 30, 1872 January 28, 1918) was a Canadian poet, doctor, author and artist and soldier during World War I, who wrote the famous war memorial poem "In Flanders Fields".
McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, attending the Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute. He then studied medicine on a scholarship at the University of Toronto, where he joined the Zeta Psi Fraternity. While there he also rose to the command of the Toronto militia, the Queen's Own Rifles, and published his first poems. He also co-authored a medical textbook, with J. G. Adami, titled A text-book of pathology for students of medicine (Philadelphia and New York, 1912; 2nd ed., 1914).
McCrae served in the artillery during the Boer War, and upon his return was appointed professor of pathology at the University of Vermont, where he taught until 1911, although he also taught at McGill University in Montreal. In 1910 he accompanied Lord Grey, the Governor General of Canada, on a canoe trip to Hudson Bay.
When World War I broke out, McCrae was appointed as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery. He was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. McCrae's friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle, and his burial inspired the poem, "In Flanders Fields", which was written on May 3, 1915 and published later that year in Punch magazine.
In 1918, while still serving in the field hospital, McCrae caught pneumonia and meningitis and died.
McCrae was the uncle of Alberta MP David Kilgour and Kilgour's sister Geills Turner, the wife of former Canadian Prime Minister John Napier Turner.