Campaign underway to honor Britain's first female doctor

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A campaign to honour Britain's first woman doctor, who was forced to pretend to be a man for 53 years in order to practise medicine, has been launched in the Capital. Miranda Stewart had to don the disguise in the early 1800s to gain entry to the exclusively male world of Edinburgh University.

The teenager adopted the name James Barry, later becoming a pioneering Army surgeon and keeping her elaborate deception a secret until she lay on her deathbed in 1865.

Now an amateur historian wants to recognise her unique achievements with a plaque on the Lothian Street house where she once lived.

Barry, who was rumoured to be the granddaughter of the 11th Earl of Buchan and niece of the famous painter James Barry, arrived in the city in around 1805. She secretly became Edinburgh University's first female graduate while still a teenager.

During her extraordinary life, she travelled the world as an Army surgeon, still keeping up the pretence of being a man. She also gained a reputation as a controversial and sometimes ill-disciplined officer. In 1819, the year she joined, Lord Albemarle was critical of the doctor's "unmistakably Scotch type of countenance", as well as a "certain effeminacy in his manner".

Barry retired from the services in 1859, having earned a reputation as a medical pioneer through her work to prevent disease spreading in dirty, overcrowded field hospitals.

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