Dr James Barry (1789–1865) was many things in his life: Inspector General of Hospitals, army surgeon, duellist, reformer, ladykiller, eccentric. He performed the first successful Caesarean delivery in the British Empire, outraged the military establishment, and gave Florence Nightingale a dressing down at Scutari. At home he was surrounded by a menagerie of animals, including a cat, a goat, a parrot and a terrier. But most astonishingly, long ago in Cork, Ireland, he had been born female and lived as a young woman and a mother.
Drawing on a decade of research in archives all over the world, including the unearthing of previously unknown material, Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield tell the amazing true story of James Barry, also known as Margaret Anne Bulkley, the transgender pioneer who broke the rules of Georgian society by secretly changing identity to become one of the most respected and controversial army surgeons of the 19th century.
In an extraordinary life, James Barry crossed paths with the British Empire’s great and good, from royalty and rebels to soldiers and slaves. A medical pioneer, Dr Barry rose to a position that no woman was allowed to occupy; in his male persona he became the first biologically female (or transgender) individual to attain an MD degree and membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, and eventually became the first to reach the rank of general in the British Army.
However, for all his successes, James's long, audacious deception also left him isolated and emotionally scarred, as well as costing Margaret the chance to be with the man she loved.
Co-authored with Michael du Preez, Dr James Barry is the fullest and and most revealing portrait of this extraordinary life yet written.
Meticulously researched and written with great verve, this biography is about as good as it gets.
Neil McKenna, author of Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England
This is a fascinating account of the life and career of Dr James Barry as a doctor working in the early nineteenth century. Although Dr Barry obtained a Diploma from this College in 1813 it is only now through this book we are able to fully understand and recognise her achievements.
Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Immensely enjoyable. It’s a fascinating story, told with verve, sensitivity and skill – the result of an awe-inspiring amount of research and detective work, managed with delicacy and flair … A marvellous read, and a story worth telling.
Rodney Bolt, author of The Impossible Life of Mary Benson