Circa 1789 - 1865

Details of Barry’s early life are unclear, but research indicates he was assigned female at birth and was born in Ireland in 1789. When Barry embarked on a voyage to Edinburg in 1809, he was already using his chosen name and began studies at the University of Edinburgh where he qualified with a Medical Doctorate in 1812. Moving to London, he successfully passed the examination of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Barr’s first posts were in Chelsea and then Plymouth, where he was promoted to Assistant Staff Surgeon. His first significant post was in South Africa where he served as Colonial Medical Inspector from 1817-1827, arranging for an improved water system and performing one of the first known successful caesarean birth procedures in Africa. Despite his skill, Barry earned enemies during his quest to reform the medical and prison systems. In 1828, he was posted to various tropical islands where he stressed the need for proper sanitation as well as social, medical, and humanitarian reforms. By this time he had become Inspector General of H.M. Army Hospitals, but was demoted after becoming involved in a political skirmish while posted to Saint-Helena. He eventually regained his rank and, in 1857, departed for Canada where, as Inspector General of Hospitals, he fought for better food, sanitation, and proper medical care for prisoners, lepers, and soldiers and their families. Barry retired in 1864 and died the following year in England of dysentery. His request to be buried without medical examination went unheeded, leading the charwoman who cared for his body to discover the female anatomy he had long kept hidden. A staff surgeon major who had known Barry for years, having previously treated him for bronchitis, stated in a letter to the Registrar General that Barry was probably intersex. Several scholars have since come to question the examining doctor’s claim.


Gender Male

Gender Identity Transgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Ireland United Kingdom South Africa Malta Canada

Era/Epoch Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Field(s) of Contribution




Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell