LGBT People of History 85 - James Barry
The life of James Barry is surrounded in mystery. What is definitely known is that he was a surgeon in the British Army.
He was born sometime between1789 and 1799 in Ireland. It is believed that Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley and seemed to have ‘become’ a man en route to Edinburgh to attend medical school. He qualified as a doctor in 1812 and moved to London where he passed the ‘Royal College of Surgeons of England’ exams.
He was then commissioned as a ‘Hospital Assistant’ in the British Army and became an ‘Assistant Staff Surgeon’ soon after. It is possible he was at the Battle of Waterloo.
Between 1815 and 1817, he arrived in South Africa where he rapidly rose to the rank of ‘Medical Inspector’. There he performed the first known African Caesarean Section.
During his career he moved around the colonies and was never far from controversy. At heart his desire was for improvement in conditions and this sometimes upset local dignitaries. He was eventually promoted to ‘Principal Medical Officer’ and later became an ‘Inspector-General of Hospitals’ in Canada. Here he fought for improvements to the conditions of soldiers, prisoners and lepers.
He seemed to have been a bit of a quarrelsome character. This was usually in pursuit of the common good as he could not stand to witness suffering of any kind. As a doctor he seemed to have had a pleasant bedside manner. He got upset if anyone criticised his voice, mannerisms or professionalism – as anyone would!
John, his manservant, and his dog were always with him.
When he died of dysentery in 1865, his female anatomy was discovered, but kept secret for 100 years. It is believed that he chose to live as a man so that he could become a surgeon. Some have theorised that James may have been intersex.
Ian and Callum.
With thanks to Wikipedia.
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