James Smith Ayerst 1824 – 1885

ayesrtJames Smith Ayerst 1824/4 – 1885 was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1859 having having graduated in 1847 as Assistant Surgeon to the Royal Navy on the Flag Ship Hibernia, and later on the Hogue, and he went round the Cape of Good Hope on the Maender in 1852.

James Smith Ayerst was a correspondent and homeopathic doctor of Charles Darwin. Ayerst worked alongside James Manby Gully at Old Well House, Malvern Wells 1857–68, and at the Hydropathic establishment at Malvern in the 1850s and had taken over from Gully by 1858. Charles Darwin went to see James Smith Ayerst there for treatment in 1863.

James Smith Ayerst was also a homeopath and he is listed in the Homeopathic Medical Directory of Great Britain and Ireland in 1871, practicing at 2 Belgrade Terrace, Torquay, (between 1868–84).

James Smith Ayerst also contributed to the Plain Directions for the Treatment of Common Complaints and Homoeopathic of the University of Michigan in 1856 from London, and a William Edward Ayerst (1830 – 1904) also contributed to the same journal in 1847.

Of interest:

The legal side of the Ayerst family may have travelled to Canada on official Colonial business, as by 1876 in the court of appeal in Ontario we see Ayerst vs Jenkins (contract law, Mortgages, Pledges, and Liens), Ayerst vs McClean and others. F W Ayerst is mentioned in the Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute (Canada) in 1881.

In 1880 James Smith Ayerst is mentioned in Harvard’s Medical Press and Circular, and James Smith Ayerst and Alfred Ayerst are also mentioned in The American Philatelist 1887. The Medical Register Oxford 1889 mentions James Smith Ayerst, Thomas Ayerst and William Edward Ayerst, so it is possible they were living back in England.

Some members of the Ayerst family had already immigrated to Canada and to America, as the surname is well represented on both sides of the Atlantic and the connections between both branches of the family do seem to be vibrant, through travel, trade, law (Ayerst 1823 Michigan) and religion.

Hooker Ayerst from Faversham in Kent was 1855 London Commissioner of Oaths, and a Hooker Henman Ayerst born 1854 -1930 was a famous British chemist who contributed to The chemical news and journal of physical science in Oxford England in 1879.

A Francis Ayerst was also mentioned in the The Lancet: A Journal of British and Foreign Medical and Chemical… in 1865. Gordon Geoffrey Ayerst associate of the Royal Institute of Chemistry University of California 1956 and also listed in the Who’s Who of British Scientists in 1970.

William Ernest AYERST 1900 – 1963 in Ontario. OCCUPATION: Druggist seems the most likely contender for WES Ayerst who founded the Ayerst, McKenna and Harrison Ltd in 1925.

William Edward Ayerst (1823- 1890), brother of James Smith Ayerst (1824-1885) was a member of the Committee of the Metropolitan Homeopathic Hospital for the Diseases of Children and Vaccine Establishment, alongside William Vallancy DruryCharles W LutherA H MacDonaldDavid Wilson, William Edward Ayerst 1830 – 1904 was was a colleague of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, the first President of the British Homeopathic Society, and Marmaduke Blake Sampsonthe Chairman of theBritish Homeopathic Association, and many other homeopaths.

Medals offered for sale on Ebay 8.9.11:

“On offer are the original, full-size medals of William Ayerst who served as an infantry officer in India – and later became a senior Army Chaplain. The medals are: India General Service Medal 1854 with the clasp “Burma 1885-7” named LIEUT. W. AYERST 25TH BN. INF. This is in very good (GVF+) condition – and is on (what looks to be) the original ribbon. There’s an official correction to the spelling of the surname. Afghanistan Medal 1881- no clasps named REVD. W. AYERST. BEN. ECCL. ESTABT. Also in very good (GVF+) condition – just a few minor contact marks – and again on (what looks to be) the original ribbon.

THE REV. WILLIAM AYERST (1830-1904) M.A. The Rev. William Ayerst was born in Germany on the 16th March 1830, the son of another Rev. William Ayerst MA. He was educated at King’s College, London and Caius College, Cambridge, where he won the prestigious Hulsean and Norrisian prizes for theology. He became a Bengal Chaplain in 1861 and was Senior Chaplain to the Kyber Field Force during the 2nd Afghan Campaign of 1879-81. He was the Principal of Ayerst Hall, Cambridge (which he founded) from returning to England until 1899. He was the author of a number of important theological works, including “Christianity of Language”. He died on the 6th April 1904.

His brother (*NB: James Smith Ayerst was the brother of William Edward Ayerst (1823- 1890) – NOT the Rev William Ayerst (1830-1904 – see comments section below), James Smith Ayerst, was an eminent homeopathic physician and surgeon – whose patients included Charles Darwin. The pharmaceutical manufacturing business he founded merged with Wyeth to become Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories. Wyeth is now part of Pfizer. With photocopied entry in Who Was Who 1897- 1916. (From http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MEDALS-INFANTRY-OFFICER-LATER-ARMY-CHAPLAIN-/140598901471?pt=UK_Collectables_Militaria_LE&hash=item20bc58fadf#ht_904wt_1145)

The Wyeth Connection:

In the 1860s, John and Frank Wyeth opened a drug store in Philadelphia:

‘… My Dear Friend… Now for business. I have long thought that there is room in London for a great American depot of all homeopathic & allied things. Boericke and Tafel could achieve this, why not, like Wyeth, and Boroughs, Wellcome & Co. move in this direction?…’ (Swedenborg Archive K125 [2] Letter dated 23.12.1895 from James John Garth Wilkinson to William Boericke). 

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyeth In 1862, on the suggestion of doctors, they began to manufacture large quantities of commonly ordered medicines. They were successful, and in 1864 they began supplying medicines and beef extract to the Union army during the Civil War.

In 1872, Henry Bower, an employee of Wyeth, developed one of the first rotary compressed tablet machines in the United States. This enabled the mass production of medicines with unprecedented precision and speed. It was massively successful, and the Wyeth brothers won multiple awards at the Centennial Exhibition.

In 1883, Wyeth opened its first foreign facility in Montreal, Canada and began vaccine production. Six years later, a fire destroyed the brothers’ original Walnut Street store; the brothers sold the retail business and began focusing on mass-production.

John Wyeth died in 1907 and his only son, Stuart, became the company’s president. American Home Products, the holding company now known as Wyeth, was incorporated on February 4th, 1926. The Whitehall building in downtown Manhattan became the corporation’s first headquarters.

Global sales became stronger due to the sales of Wyeth’s Kolynos brand of toothpaste. In 1929, Stuart Wyeth died and left controlling interest to Harvard University.

In 1924 William Harrison, Ontario sales manager of a Canadian drug company, became interested in a report that liver oil from cod caught off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland was a much richer source of vitamin A than the Norwegian oil.

In January 1925 Harrison and associates, W.A.S. Ayerst, Hugh McPherson and W.J. McKenna, incorporated as Ayerst, McKenna and Harrison Ltd. Letters of patent not only granted the company rights to “produce, manufacture, purchase, sell, import, export chemicals, drugs and medicines of all kinds,” but also some rights it never used, eg, “to sell snuff, spices, leaf tobacco, cheroots, shellacs, and crockery.”

In 1929 Ayerst introduced the first cod liver oil concentrate in capsule form, under the brand name Alphamettes, a product that became available in pharmacies in Canada and the US for many years until the development of multivitamin formulations.

In 1925, Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison Ltd. was founded in Canada by W.A.S. Ayerst, W.J. McKenna, W.H. Harrison and H. McPherson. They formed an early association with McGill University and began to develop and produce many new biological products.

On March 4th, 1934, Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison Ltd. established a manufacturing and distributing site in the “old high school” in Rouses Point, New York. The original staff of five shipped their first order on April 6, 1934.

In 1942, Ayerst Laboratories introduced Premarin® (conjugated estrogen tablets, USP), the world’s first conjugated estrogens product, in the United States and Canada. Today, Premarin is the most widely prescribed estrogen product in the United States.

In 1943, Ayerst Laboratories joined AHP. In 1945, the Rouses Point site and the International Chemical Workers Union (ICWU) formed a partnership and established Local 95C ICWU. The Rouses Point facility continued to grow in size and in 1967 a 12,000 square foot Chemical Pilot plant was built for specialized chemical manufacturing and laboratory space.

In 1969 a two million dollar research complex was built in Chazy, New York on land purchased from the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute. In 1987 an amalgamation of Wyeth and Ayerst formed Wyeth-Ayerst.

J.C. Collip, co-discoverer of insulin in 1922, was a Ph.D. biochemist from the University of Toronto in 1916 and Chair of the Department of Endocrinology at McGill University in 1929 when he and his medical research team were approached by W.J. McKenna of Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison to carry out studies on placental hormones.

Their research led to the production in 1930 of Emmenin, the first orally active estrogen. This discovery was but the first of a series of research steps that eventually lead to the discovery of the estrogenic complex, Premarin, that Ayerst laboratories began marketing worldwide in 1941.

In 1943, Wyeth merged with Ayerst, McKenna and Harrison, Ltd. of Canada. With this merger came Premarin, the world’s first conjugated estrogen medicine, which to this day is one of Wyeth’s flagship products. Wyeth was one of 22 companies selected by the government in 1944 to manufacture penicillin for the military, and later for the general public.

Between 1970 and 1989 Wyeth and Ayerst merged to form Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, thus strengthening and consolidating Wyeth’s pharmaceutical operations.


The English geneology of the Ayerst surname goes back to Anglo Saxon times:

This unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a dialectal variation of the locational surname Hayhurst, from the place so named in the parish of Ribchester, Lancashire.

The derivation of the placename is from the Olde English pre 7th Century “hoeg”, meaning “enclosure”, and “hyrst”, a hillock or knoll, especially a wooded hill.

Locational surnames, such as this, were usually acquired by a local landowner, or by the lord of the manor, and especially by those former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, usually in search of work, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace.

Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Anne, daughter of Jerome and Christian Ayerst, on August 13th 1617, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, and the marriage of William Ayerst and Mary Southerne on October 23rd 1628, at St. Vedast, Foster Lane and St. Michael Le Querne.

The family Coat of Arms is a silver shield, on a blue bend engrailed a gold sun in chief, and an eagle wings elevated of the field in base; in the sinister chief point a red cross flory.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de Heyhurst, which was dated 1246, witness in the “Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire”, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as “The Frenchman”, 1216 – 1272.

Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

In the 165os a James Smith Ayerst and a Rev. Robert G Ayerst obtained the Manor at Halmede or Halls Court in Kent.

Geneology dataAyersts 1700 – 1800 Ayersts 1800 onwards Geneology Worldwide Ayesrts 1800 onwards London Parish Register Society 1897

Rootsweb – James Smith AYERST born 1824 in Brompton, Kent, England, United Kingdom died 15 MAR 1884 in Stanbury, Torquay, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom

Ayerst family history site James Smith Ayerst

1847 Assistant surgeon in the Royal Navy, 1847–55

1855 Assistant Physician, Royal Navy 1856.

1856–7 Physician, Great Malvern, Worcestershire

1857 Physician and Surgeon, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, England, United Kingdom 1857 Ran a hydropathic establishment at Old Well House, Malvern Wells, 1857–68, initially in conjunction with James Manby Gully. Practised homoeopathy and hygienics.

1884 Physican and Surgeon, Torquay, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom Education: University Of Edinburgh Medical School Census

1856–7 Physician, Great Malvern, Worcestershire

James’s father was Francis AYERST (* NB: see comment below from Chery 28.9.12 to inform us that Francis must have died before 1832) Marriage 1 Spouse Unknown (NB: see comments section below from Chery 28.9.12 – James Smith Ayerst (1824-1885) was the son of Francis Ayerst and Sarah Smith and brother of William Edward Ayerst (1823-1890)).

James Smith AYERST b: 1824 in Brompton, Kent, England, United Kingdom married to Mary Crine NOYES b: 1818 Married: SEP 1854 in Plymouth, Cornwall, England

Rev. William Ayerst (Missionary and Abolitionist) in Canada and in England, author, Bishop of Natal 1887 and member of the Bishop of London’s Committee.

From 1884 to 1896 William Ayerst ran a private hostel (Ayerst Hostel at his old college Cambridge) which was housed on Mount Pleasant. When this was closed the buildings were occupied by St. Edmund’s House, an institution for men training for the Roman Catholic secular priesthood.

In 1898 St. Edmund’s House applied for recognition as a public hostel. Once again the spectre of denominational education was abroad. The application was supported by some very influential people; Henry Sidgwick, for instance, thought it gross partisanship to refuse to Roman Catholics what had already been granted to Anglicans.

However, hostile opinion was too strong, and the grace was rejected by a decisive majority (May 1898). William Ayerst was a distinguished family name as a William Ayerst was Chaplain in Paris in 1720.

Francis Ayerst (attorney – London partnership with John Dickinson dissolved 1841) and Thomas Ayerst (British military lieutenant 1860 and doctor MRCS 1893) were listed in the Battle polling district in 1837. Frank Ayerst was a soldier in the Australian regiments which fought in South Africa in 1899. The family appear to have been gentlemen farmers, vicars, legal attorneys and merchants in Kent (a J Ayerst corn merchant of Kent went bankrupt in 1805 and in 1936 an Albert Ayerst Hooker was writing books on The International Grain Trade) and South East England for centuries, and like most English families they contributed people to most of the British Colonies one way or the other.

The Canadian connection:

Blackstocks of Ontario – married Frederick R. AYERST 1854- 1918 in Ontario in 1886 – Children Mary Lylal AYERST 1887 – 1957, Albert Edward Blackstock AYERST 1889. (Cecile Palmer and Albert Ayerst were married in New York (date 1930s – 1940s) They were attended by Miss Bessie Ayerst, sister of the bridegroom…

Mr. Ayerst is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Everton Ayerst of Depauville. Mr. and Mrs. Ayerst will reside at Antwerp where he is employed at the Borden milk plant. Allan AYERST 1891 in Ontario.Charles Frederick AYERST 1898 -1969. William Ernest AYERST 1900 – 1963 in Ontario. OCCUPATION: Druggist

St. Thomas journal St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada – 3 October 1921 Married – Vernal Boyd Ayerst to Olive Mable Coulter.

10 thoughts on “James Smith Ayerst 1824 – 1885”

  1. This is very interesting material for me as my mother was an Ayerst – her father was Herbert Frank Ayerst who may be the Frank Ayerst referred to above. He married and settled in Port Elizabeth. My daughter is a doctor and while a student was interested to discover that in her close was a fellow student with the surname Ayerest from Port Elizabeth. He proved to be the grandson of Frank Ayerst’s youngest brother. He now works in Kent.
    Incidently, James Smith Ayerst’s mother was Sarah Ann Smith.
    Other medical Ayersts were Thomas Ayerst, who practiced in Rolvenden and William Ayerst in Loose, Kent.


  3. I noticed that you had James Smith Ayersts’ father dying in 1852. In fact, he died before 1839 because his eldest daughter, Mary Ann, married John Edmund Jones on 4 Jun 1839 and he was the late Francis Ayerst then. I have still not been able to find the date of his death but one source, family search, said 1829.

  4. Hi Donald

    Thanks for your correction which I have indicated by a star* in the bio – the original hyperlinks have snapped, so take care with this folks…


  5. I am the great granddaughter of Rebecce Amelia Ayerst (1852-1928). My grandfather was Ambrose Ayerst Williams. (The Chatham branch).

    The quote on the EBay add respecting James Smith Ayerst is incorrect. James Smith Ayerst was the son of Francis Ayerst and Sarah Smith and brother of William Edward Ayerst (1823-1890) and not the brother of William Ayerst (1830-1904).

    Francis Ayerst died before 1832 – Sarah Ann Ayerst (Smith) Will indicates that she was a widow when it was dated:
    The National Archives:
    Description Will of Sarah Ann Ayerst, Widow of Brompton , Kent
    Date 28 February 1832
    Catalogue reference PROB 11/1795


  6. Hi Chery

    Thanks very much for taking the time to correct this information, this is greatly appreciated.

    I have corrected the text to reflect your corrected information…


  7. Dec 1, 2012

    As an aside, my great-uncle (my fathers uncle) was Charles Melbourne Johnson. H graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BS in Pharmacy in 1929, and MS in 1931, then attended graduate school for 2 yrs. He later obtained is Law Degree in San Francisco, passed the California Bar in 1941, went to work for the FBI for 4 yrs, then returned to Ayerst, becoming vice president in 1951, executive Vice President in 1963, President in 1965, Chairman of the Board in 1968, retiring in 1971. He played a very significant role in Ayerst. Thank you. Stewart Johnson, PT

  8. I am Jason Robert Ayerst, Direct descendant of the above named ayersts, from the original last name hayhurst (sp?). I am interested in finding out as much information about my family as possible.

    This is about the ayerst genealogy (relatives and and people who married into the family). not about the company and who made it big and who helped made it big. the way I see it, Stuart, if it werent for the ayerts, your grandfather wouldn’t have a had a job.

  9. My grandfather’s. name was Walter william. Wellington ayerst he was married to Edith May(Fick) Ayerst.My father was Walter GordonAyerst he was. married to Jean Gertrude. (Fisher) Ayerst.I. Would like to know more about my ancestry. It has become very important to me since Iam the oldest member in this branch of the family.I donot what my children and grandchild to be in the dark too.If you can help I be very thankful. Thank you Edith (Ayerst ) Hammond

  10. Dear Edith
    I have your grandfather Walter William Wellington Ayerst in my family database as being born on June 14, 1875 in Innisfil. I would love to hear from you.

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