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BARRETT, MICHAEL, physician and teacher; b. 16 May 1816, in London, England, son of Michael Barrett and Frances Scott; m. Ellen McCallum, and they had four sons and two daughters; d. 26 Feb. 1887 in Toronto, Ont.

Michael Barrett received the greater part of his early education at Caen, France. In 1833 his father, an English barrister, determined to emigrate and took the family to Upper Canada. Michael lived for a time at Penetanguishene serving as a sailor and engaging in fishing and trading activities on Georgian Bay. Later he taught school at Newmarket, where he turned out on the loyalist side during the rebellion of 1837. About this time his father moved to Natchez, Miss., where Michael later joined him.

About 1843 Barrett returned to Canada West and studied law in Toronto for two years. In 1845 he was appointed second English master at Upper Canada College and assistant master of the college boarding-house. Later he became first English master, and also taught French and geography, but eventually devoted his teaching mainly to physiology, chemistry, and anatomy. His active connection with the college lasted for 35 years. In 1846 he entered King’s College, from which he received a ba in 1849 (he received an ma from the University of Toronto in 1853), and where he also studied medicine. In 1852 he was licensed by the provincial medical board, and in 1855 he was awarded the honorary degree of md from Victoria College.

In 1852 Barrett joined the Toronto School of Medicine, then headed by John Rolph*, and lectured in chemistry and medical jurisprudence. In 1854 the school became affiliated with Victoria College in Cobourg as the medical department of the latter, and Barrett became one of its five professors. He became a member of the senate of the University of Toronto as a representative of the Toronto School of Medicine in 1855 and served in that capacity for some six years. In 1856, after a disagreement between Rolph and his staff, all of the latter, including Barrett, broke with Rolph and set themselves up as an independent proprietary school, taking with them the name, the Toronto School of Medicine, which affiliated with the University of Toronto. At the university Barrett also served as an examiner in medicine and arts in the late 1850s and early 1860s as well as examiner in physiology and comparative anatomy for about five years following 1862. He continued as a professor in the medical school until his death, serving as lecturer in physiology after Dr James Bovell*’s retirement in 1870. He also lectured in this subject at the Ontario Veterinary College in Toronto from the 1860s until his death.

In the last years of his life Barrett played an important part in the establishment of the Ontario Medical College for Women. At a time when women were being denied admission to existing medical schools, Augusta Stowe* Gullen, who would be the first woman to secure an md in Canada, appealed to Barrett and other medical men for assistance. Barrett presided over a public meeting which endorsed plans for a women’s medical school, and he also delivered the main address at the opening of the college in Toronto on 1 Oct. 1883. He was appointed dean and taught at the college until his death.

G. M. Craig

Academy of Medicine (Toronto), William Thomas Aikins papers. “Michael Barrett, M.A., M.D.,” Canadian Practitioner (Toronto), 12 (1887): 94–95. Globe, 28 Feb. 1887. Toronto Daily Mail, 28 Feb. 1887. W. P. Bull, From medicine man to medical man: a record of a century and a half of progress in health and sanitation as exemplified by developments in Peel (Toronto, 1934). W. G. Cosbie, The Toronto General Hospital, 1819–1965: a chronicle (Toronto, 1975). Augusta Stowe Gullen, A brief history of the Ontario Medical College for Women (n. p., 1906).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

G. M. Craig, “BARRETT, MICHAEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barrett_michael_11E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barrett_michael_11E.html
Author of Article: G. M. Craig
Title of Article: BARRETT, MICHAEL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1982
Year of revision: 1982
Access Date: July 23, 2014