James Barry — Contributions to Biology | by Kasey Challenger | Oct, 2021

James Barry was one of the British Army’s top medical officers in the nineteenth century; Inspector General of the British Army; and surgeon of the first successful caesarean, after which both mother and child survived. He may also have a claim to some of the ideas that Florence Nightingale pioneered, including the importance of clean water, hygiene, and ventilation in hospitals.

James Barry (surgeon) — Wikipedia

When Barry died from Cholera in 1865, a caretaker found his body and discovered that the renowned surgeon was biologically female — later identified as the Irishwoman Margaret Ann Bulkley. Bulkley became the first woman to get a medical degree, membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, and to reach the rank of General in the British Army (none of which women were allowed to do in Britain at the time).

‘Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time’ by Jeremy Dronfield and Michael Du Preez

It transpired that, aged 19, Bulkley decided she was determined to practice medicine but knew she would not be legally allowed. When her uncle — James Barry, a painter — died, she took his name and enrolled in medical school. Her façade lasted from that moment, until the day she died.


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