James Miranda Barry

c.1795 - 1865

Army surgeon and, through deception, the world's first female doctor. Details of Barry's birth are unclear, but it seems she was born in Ireland and it is said she was often dressed as a boy whilst a child. Encouraged by David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan (1742-1829), she entered the Medical School of Edinburgh University as a man, graduating in 1812. It is thought that she was very intelligent and was pushed towards a medical education at a young age at a time where this would have been impossible for a woman and hence the pretence.

Barry became a surgeon in the Colonial Service and served overseas in the army in countries including South Africa and Canada. Regarded as a dandy and flirtatious, she was known for sexual peccadilloes involving fellow officer's wives and the officers themselves, and indeed fought a duel over one woman in 1819. Barry retired as Inspector General of Hospitals, one of the most senior medical positions in the army. The sensational discovery of her female gender was only made after her death. He lied buried in Kensal Green Cemetery (London).

Her unusual tale has been the subject of several books.

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