First female student at Royal Botanic Garden '˜posed as man'

A 19TH century surgeon who posed as a man to reach the top of the profession studied plants at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), archivists have revealed.

Tuesday, 14th March 2017, 2:11 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:03 am
The grounds at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

James Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley in Cork, Ireland, around 1790, but gained a place at Edinburgh’s medical school after adopting a male disguise.

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Now RBGE archivists have discovered she had a botanical education under its Regius Keeper, Daniel Rutherford. She was also its first female student at a time when medicine was an all-male profession.

Archivist Leonie Paterson said: “It is exciting to find this confirmation of probably the first woman to have studied at RBGE.”

Barry’s signature has gone on display in a special exhibition running until March 30.