Sue Young Histories

James Barr 1849 - 1938

October 20, 2008

James Barr (LLD, MD Glasgow 1873, FRCP) 1849 - 1938 House Physician at the Northern Hospital Liverpool, Medical Officer at HM Prison, Kirkdale, Visiting Medical Officer to the asylums at Tuebrook and Haydock Lodge, National Vice President of the Eugenics Education Society, President, of the Liverpool Medical Institute, Editor of the Liverpool Medico Chirurgical Journal, President of the British Medical Association, Lieut. Colonel in the Territorial Force Royal Army Medical Corps and a member of the Central War Committee 1916, Vice Presidency in the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress, and a Patron of Marie Stopes’s Mothers Clinic.

James Barr wrote a defense of Albert Abrams in 1925. Albert Abrams was the inventor of the Radionics machine and an advocate of homeopathy.

in 1925, another detailed report on the electrical properties of the oscilloclast was included in a book by Sir James Barr, one of the foremost proponents of the Electronic Research Association in England, and a past President of the British Medical Association.

The book was Abrams’ Methods of Diagnosis and Treatment, and this investigation into the inner workings of the oscilloclast and its operation was performed by Prof. E. Taylor Jones, a physics professor at University College, Bangor. His findings were similar to Ackerman’s. Due to the endorsement of Sir James Barr and the Thomas Horder Report on the Electronic Research Association, England has had more tolerance for radionics. (James Barr also wrote On Some of Albert Abrams’ Methods of Diagnosis & Treatment).

In addition to support from Upton Sinclair, two other advocates of Abrams were James Barr (a past President of the British Medical Association) and Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes detective novels). James Barr duplicated some of Abrams’s experiments and described him as one of the greatest medical geniuses of his time…

James Barr was a complicated man in a complicated age. Though he was an allopathic and orthodox physician, he had no great difficulty embracing difficult issues.

He promoted eugenics, as many people did at this time. He also supported Marie Stopes and was on the Birth Control Committee.

Prior to World War II and the terrible atrocities endured by millions of innocent people, which has rightly earned eugenics the drear name it has today, many professional and influential people considered eugenics a respectable subject before World War I, when difficult questions were being raised from every quarter.

In his role as Vice President of the Eugenics Education Society in Liverpool, James Barr contributed to the debate that led ultimately to the new science of genetics which subsequently led to his election as President of the British Medical Association in 1912, and his election to the Central War Committee in 1916, and his knighthood.

The extreme positions of the past have resolved into a modern consensus that now makes eugenics appear shameful, but at the time, this philosophy was widely embraced around the World.

James Barr was a charismatic Ulster Scot, born at Cumber in County Derry, Northern Ireland. He took his medical degree at Glasgow University (1873). His association with Liverpool began in 1874 with his appointment as House Physician at the Northern Hospital and continued until his retirement to the South of England in 1926.

He was described as “… a protagonist of Eugenics and racial improvement at a time when few medical men dared to prejudice their position by holding views in advance of public opinion.”

It is probable that his eugenic views would have been reinforced, if not actually shaped, by his appointment in 1877 as medical officer at HM Prison, Kirkdale, and later by his work as the visiting medical officer to the asylums at Tuebrook and Haydock Lodge.

He confessed to having come into contact with “… all classes of society, from the highest to the lowest, from the saint to the lowest wretches who disgrace humanity…” adding that the “… firm grip of the hand [from] a prisoner … on his way to the scaffold…” had made a lasting impression on him.

At HM Prison, Kirkdale, he had been severely wounded while defending a prisoner from attack by another prisoner. A man of some sensitivity, who had sat during the night with sick prisoners, these experiences would have had a profound effect on him.


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