William Smith Ely was the second son of William Watson Ely and a Prominent member of the Rochester City Hospital medical staff, which he joined in 1868. An 1857 graduate of the University of Rochester, he began to study medicine in his father's office.
In 1862 he enrolled in the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry as an assistant surgeon. He was transferred to Annapolis, Maryland, where he became the administrator of a military hospital for the duration of the war. In 1865 he enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating two years later.
He was a member of the medical staff of Rochester City hospital for more than forty years. He was instrumental in forming the School of Nursing, the Communicable Disease Pavilions, and the Outpatient Department. Dr. Ely was also influential in establishing the Medical Library. The Ely Viewing Room in the current Medical Library is named for him. (Courtesy Paul Weld, M.D.)