People

James Miranda Barry

Pioneering British Army surgeon, first female graduate of the University.

Barry plaque

Background

Margaret Ann Bulkley, more commonly known as Dr James Barry, is believed to be the first woman graduate of the University of Edinburgh.

In 1810, when Barry entered the University, it was a male-only establishment, and so deception was the only option for a woman hoping to pursue a medical career.

After only two years of study, and probably at no more than 17 years of age, Barry graduated.

Initially she worked at St Thomas' Hospital, London, before joining the British Army as a medical officer.

Military medicine career

Barry initially worked at St Thomas' Hospital, London, before joining the British Army as a medical officer.

She was sent to South Africa a year later and gained a reputation as a first-class surgeon. It was in South Africa that Barry carried out the first successful caesarean section in 1826.

In 1857 Barry was posted to Canada as inspector general of military hospitals.

She concerned herself with the everyday details of health and welfare, worked to improve the diet and lodgings of the soldiers, and fought for the construction of more sophisticated sewage and drainage systems.

Dr James Barry died of influenza in London in 1865 after being forcibly retired by the army medical board in 1859.

The plaque

Barry's plaque is in the vicinity of Old College.

 

In honour of James Miranda Barry

c1795-1865

Army surgeon and Inspector General of hospitals in Canada, lived as a man, and believed to be the first woman graduate of the University (1812)