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Sydney Francis Wise was born in Toronto, Ontario in November 1924. He resided in Toronto, attended Riverdale Collegiate and immediately upon graduation (in 1943) joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served as a pilot and held the rank of Flying Officer when he left the Force in 1945. Mr. Wise enrolled at the University of Toronto; during this period he married Verna Isobel Mulholland (on September 6, 1947). He graduated from the University in 1949 as a Gold Medalist B.A. and with the Maurice Cody Memorial Prize in History. A year later he received the Alexander Mackenzie Research Fellowship and a Bachelor of Library Science degree.
In 1953 Sydney Wise moved to Kingston after being appointed a Lecturer in History at Royal Military College. At this time he also received his M.A. from Queen's University. Two years later he joined the Queen's History Department as a Lecturer and became a McLaughlin Research Professor (1964).
In 1966, Wise was appointed Director of the Directorate of History at the National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa. He held this position for seven years before becoming a Professor of History at Carleton University, where he has served since 1973.
Sydney Wise has had a career as a scholar, an academic instructor, and the author of 13 books and over 40 articles. During his academic career he has been involved in, and has contributed to many professional associations and historical interests. In addition to having been the General Editor, 1973-1977, of The Canadian Social History Series, he has also been Editorial Board member for Social History/Histoire Sociale, for Ontario History, and for Military Affairs: The Journal of Military History. He was Director of Carleton University Press, a member of the Champlain Society's Publications Committee, and of the Editorial Board. Centre for Editing Early Canadian Texts at Carleton University. He has held the position of President of the Ontario Historical Society (1968-1969), the Canadian Historical Association (1973-1974), and the Social Science Research Council of Canada (1974-1975). In 1986 he was a Founding Director, Friends of the Canadian War Museum. The Ontario Heritage Foundation has seen him as Chairman (1980-1981) and as Director (1983); as Chairman of its Publications Committee (1975-1980), and of its Archaeological Committee (1975-1977 and 1983). As Dean of Graduate Studies and Research from 1981 to 1990, Wise played a role in continuing the development of graduate studies provincially and nationally, serving as Chairman of the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies (1984-1986), and President of the Canadian Association of Graduate Schools (1985-1986).
Professor Wise has received a number of honours: the Silver Jubilee medal in 1977; the Cruikshank Gold medal of the Ontario Historical Society in 1979 "for outstanding services to the cause of history in Ontario; and he was named Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1983. It was in 1987 that Mr. Wise received an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws honoris causa) from the University of Guelph. In 1989 he was appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of his "significant contribution to the understanding of our history through his teaching, published works and invited lectures." Sydney Wise was promoted within the Order to Officer in 2004.
Professor Sydney Wise retired from Carleton University in 1996. In March of 2007 Sydney Wise passed away in Ottawa.