Dr James Barry

Date: 8 October, 1828
Hiding her sex for 50 years


Dr James Barry graduated from the all-male Edinburgh College of Medicine in 1812. After qualifying, James Barry joined the British Army as a medical officer and was sent to South Africa a year later, where he gained a reputation as a first-class surgeon. It was at the Cape that Barry performed what is believed to be the first recorded, and successful, caesarean operation (1826). On 8 October 1828 Barry left the Cape for Mauritius. Barry died in 1865 in London whereupon it was found that the physician had been a woman.

” … a woman had posed as a man to become the first female medical graduate in Britain, fooled the army into employing her and then kept her sex secret for half a century.” – Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph


Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.Fleming, N. (2008). ‘Revealed: Army surgeon actually a woman’from The Telegraph, 5 March [online], available at:telegraph.co.uk [accessed October 2009]

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