James Barry was a surgeon whose work took him all over the world. But James Barry started his life very differently.
Who was James Barry?
- James Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley in Cork in the south of Ireland around 1789.
- Margaret Ann Bulkley was an intelligent child, clever enough to become a doctor. Unfortunately, only men were allowed to study medicine at this time.
- In 1809, Margaret took on a new identity as James Barry and became a medical student at Edinburgh University.
- James qualified as a doctor in 1812 and worked at St Thomas's Hospital in London for six months.
- In 1813 he became an army surgeon and travelled all over the world, to places like South Africa and the West Indies.
- James could be very bad tempered and once got into an argument with the famous nurse Florence Nightingale!
- James Barry died in 1865 and only then did people discover that he had started life as Margaret Bulkley.
Why was James Barry important?
James Barry was the UK's first female-born doctor, although no-one knew this at the time.
As an army surgeon he travelled all over the British Empire.
Barry was interested in public health - rather than curing sick people he worked to keep them well through better living conditions, healthy diet and clean water to drink.
James Barry became very angry when he saw people living in unhealthy conditions, but his anger often got him into trouble
He was eventually promoted to the job of Inspector General of military hospitals in Canada.