Edward Elric, Ed is short and slender, but compactly muscled. While his automail limbs are considerably strong and heavy, he remains extremely agile and flexible. He is able to think quickly, even in desperate situations. These qualities, combined with his alchemic powers, make him a formidable fighter. He has golden-blond hair and gold eyes. It is believed he is left handed, as he is often seen writing with his left hand, however, this remains contested as in early episodes he is seen predominantly using the right-hand. Some fans theorize that he was right-handed until he lost his right arm and had to replace it with automail.
Ed is intolerant towards jokes regarding his height, as shown throughout the manga, anime, and videogames. Ed is very laid back and kind when he's not working, although he can hold a grudge for a long time and go to extreme lengths to get an apology. He regards religion and superstition cynically and believes alchemy and science are the true saviours of humanity. He thus shows little remorse in defeating the false prophet Cornello in Liore and "taking away the hope of the people."
Ed's story begins in February 1910, when he and Alphonse, his younger brother, attempt to revive their mother using forbidden alchemy: human transmutation. The process requires the correct proportion of elements which constitute a human body, (according to the dialoque this includes 35 liters of water, 25 kilograms of carbon, 4 liters of ammonia, 1.5 kilograms of lime, 800 grams of phosphorous, 250 grams of salt, 100 grams of saltpeter, 80 grams of sulfur, 7.5 grams of fluorine, 5 grams of iron, 3 grams of silicon, and trace amounts of fifteen other elements) as well as the more metaphysical element of a human soul which is rendered by Ed and Al through a drop of one another's blood, the same blood as that of Trisha Elric. The attempt backfires resulting in Al losing his body and Ed his left leg as well as bringing to life an inhuman monster. In order to save Al's soul, Ed sacrificed his right arm to bind Al's soul to a nearby suit of armor using knowledge he attained from this glimpse into the Gate. Unbeknownst to Ed at the time, he also gained the rare ability to perform transmutations without a transmutation circle.
In order to regain what they had lost, Ed and Al decide to search of the legendary Philosopher's Stone, which allows an alchemist to perform transmutations that violate the Law of Equivalent Exchange (in order to gain, something of equal value must be lost). To gain access to the vast amount of research and information on alchemy available only to State Alchemists, Ed and Al decide to take the notoriously difficult State Alchemist entrance exam. They stay for a year in Central with Shou Tucker, the Sewing Life Alchemist, while studying for the exam.
Note: This is in the anime only. The stay with Tucker came after the incident in Liore in the manga. In the manga, the brothers went to Mustang once Ed had finished his rehab, who took them to Central and only Ed took the test. He passed, and they returned to Risembool and burned their home down. In the anime, they stayed with Tucker while studying for the exam, and had burned their house down before they left. That explains why the date on the inside of Ed's watch is different between the two canons- in the anime, it's "3 Oct 10" and the manga is "3 Oct 11".
However, because the brothers feared that their secret (that they had performed forbidden alchemy) would be exposed during the physical phase of the exam if Al were to take it, they decide that only Ed should take the test alone. Ed easily passes, and, at the age of 12, becomes the youngest State Alchemist that the State has ever certified. (Note: Had Al not been forced to drop from the Exam due to his "condition" and passed it, he might have been the youngest State Alchemist ever certified -at age 11- instead of his brother, Ed. Al's selection, though, is not a given. The state only takes one or two alchemists a year, so presumably even some alchemists that pass are not selected. However, there is a chance that even if Al had made it to the final stage of the exam Edward would have been selected over Alphonse because of Ed's ability to perform transmutations without a circle.)
Despite his diminutive height, Edward is a very powerful alchemist who, unlike most practitioners, can perform alchemy without the use of a transmutation circle, also known as an array. In the anime, he first discovered this ability when he accidentally transmuted a bowl of water, thus boiling it, while Gracia Hughes was giving birth. In the manga, however, Edward's first transmutation done without the use of a circle involved his automail blade in Risembool after sparring with Al at the end of his automail rehab.
Note: Edward's ignorance of this ability in the anime version constitutes a continuity error to some fans, in that the Gate is supposed to give knowledge of alchemy rather than unexplained special abilities. This, however, could be explained by the fact that Ed was preoccupied with transmuting his brother's soul rather than understanding what he gained.
Ed goes home to Resembool to find Hohenheim, his father, standing at his mother's grave. After a brief argument, Hohenheim and Ed walk to Pinako's with Ed hostile and belligerent towards his father. While Ed pretends to be asleep, he overhears his father questioning Pinako on whether the body Ed and Al created by transmutation was Trisha revived. This question spurs Ed's curiosity, and after Hohenheim leaves the next day, Ed asks Pinako to go with him to the graveyard to dig up the body he and Al created so many years ago. He starts throwing up and has to take several breaks while digging, but eventually pulls up a lock of hair; black hair instead of brown. Pinako also points out that the bones aren't the same length as Trisha's were. So Ed learns that they didn't even bring back their mother, but brought back something entirely different.
Ed goes to central to find Al is missing his lower "jaw" and his right arm of his suit of armor. After Ed repairs Al, he finds out Al had a run in with Barry the Chopper and the homunculi, but also finds out that Al learned that the soul, when not placed in its original body, can reject the substitute body, just as the human body can reject organ transplants. This rejection may occur within seconds of the soul being placed on a new body, or may not occur for hundreds of years, but rejection is inevitable.
He tells Al and Winry, after asking about an incident when they were five, that he is confirming the memories Ed has that Al doesn't have. Al and Winry allude to a moment when Ed was unconscious and fighting a fever after surgery when Winry walked in on Al, who was "resting," and they talk. Only, when Al and Winry allude to the conversation, it sounds almost like they played multiple pranks on Ed, causing Ed to become irritated and ask them to stop talking.
When they get back to the conversation at hand, Ed theorizes that Al's body is with Truth inside the gate and that it's still alive and possibly connected through Ed and Al's blood to Ed. (That he is sleeping, eating, etc. for the both of them.) Al's brain is still alive inside a body that's still alive and it is collecting the memories since Ed transferred Al's soul to the suit of armor. At this point, Al also remembers when he opened the Gate of Truth, he found himself in there, rather than his mother, as he expected. He also realized that his soul was placed on the body that he and Ed had transmuted, and even saw Ed from the body's eyes. However, rejection took place almost immediately after his soul was placed onto the body. As a sidenote, because Al's body is biologically connected to Ed, Ed has enthusiastically hypothosized that he may grow taller once Al's body is recovered since he won't have to eat (or grow) for both bodies.
Ed and Al eventually figure the only way they're going to catch a Homunculus (and the philosopher's stone within them) is to let Scar attack them, and tries to attract Scar's attention. Ed does a series of do-gooding around town (while showing off as much and as loudly as possible to get Scar to notice him) and eventually succeeds. A fight between Scar, Ed and Al ensues, with Mustang and Hawkeye diverting attention from them by redirecting the military vehicles to different places away from where the real fight is happening. Winry goes looking for them and ends up overhearing Ed accusing Scar of killing Winry's parents. She picks up the gun an officer dropped and points it at Scar, only to have Ed jump in front of her and tell her to drop the gun while Scar descends on him from the front. When Scar sees this, he hesitates, remembering his own brother protecting him from Kimblee's attack during the Eastern War. Seeing his hesitation, Al attacks Scar, driving him away from the two.
Then, Ling ties up Gluttony and Winry is going to Rush Valley once more. Gluttony escapes his bonds and tries to suck up Roy and everyone else into his "gate" for a stomach. He ends up sucking up Envy, Ling and Ed, instead, and Al's left hand. Ling and Ed find Envy eventually and Envy actually tries to be nice to Ed, however, it all backfires and Envy turns into his true form.
The tortured souls in Envy's natural form cause Ed to have a semi-nervous breakdown (he cannot bear to hurt them and flashes back to Nina for an instant). Envy then swallows him. However, after seeing the philosopher's stone that is Envy's center, he kicks out one of Envy's teeth and tells Envy and Ling that he knows a way that they can escape from Gluttony's stomach.
In the recent chapters, Ed realized that while human revival is impossible, since equivalent exchange requires the existence of the soul in question, it is possible to open the Gate of Truth by transmuting existing humans using themselves as the starting materials. This does not violate the rule of equivalent exchange, but still is a form of human transmutation, and so is a way of opening the Gate of Truth. Using the souls inside Envy as the "Toll," Ed successfully transmuted himself, Envy, and Ling, and opened the Gate once more. This time, he sees a second Gate, as well as an emaciated Alphonse sitting in front of the second gate. Ed yells for Al's body to come with him. However, Al's body told Ed that he could not go with Ed back to the real world because Ed had a different soul (as in Al's soul must be there for the body to return from the gate). Ed is then swallowed by the hands reaching out from the Gate of Truth, and he, Envy, and Ling fall out of Gluttony's stomach, and in front of the Homunculi's "Father," who bears a startling resemblance to their own.
Unable to fight "Father", because somehow their alchemy was sealed, Ed and Al helped Scar and Mei Chang to escape but stayed behind, knowing they wouldn't be harmed by him or the Homunculi because they are still useful to them. They were sent to meet King Bradley, who told them to stay out of their affairs, if they wanted to guarantee Winry's safety, but also agreed to let them continue their search for a way to restore their bodies.
Intrigued by the fact that his alchemy was nullified by "Father", but Scar and Mei Chang's were not, Ed concludes that it must be because their alchemy has a different origin than his. He decides to look for a way to obtain knowledge about foreign alchemy.