Edward Ross was born in Rostrevor, County Down, and educated in Edinburgh. He entered the service of the East India Company in 1855 and was highly proficient in Arabic and Persian. He served as colonel during the Indian Mutiny. In 1863 he joined the political service and served as consul general in South Persia from 1872 to 1891. In 1892 he was knighted and he died in Clifton.