Barry, Sir Edward (1696–1776), physician and MP, was born in Cork city, second son among seven children of Edward Barry, MD, and Jane Barry of Cork. He graduated BA at TCD (1717) and MD at Leiden (1719), where he studied under the famous Dutch physician Hermann Boerhaave. On his return to Ireland he practised medicine at Orrery Quay, Cork, and contributed to the Edinburgh Medical Essays. He was made a freeman of Cork (6 July 1731). In 1732 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He moved to Dublin in 1739, graduated MD at TCD (1740), and was admitted a fellow of the King and Queen's College of Physicians (1740); he was elected its president in 1749. In April 1744 he was a founder of the Physico-Historical Society of Ireland, established to inquire into ‘the ancient and present state’ of Ireland, and became one of its most active members and vice-president; he was also a member of its offshoot, the Medico-Philosophical Society. He held many positions, including physician general to the forces in Ireland (1745–76), regius professor of physic at TCD (1754), governor of the Foundling Hospital and Workhouse (1769–76), commissioner of James's Street Infirmary (1760–73), and governor of St Patrick's Hospital (1743, 1769). He resided on College Green, and in 1751 commissioned the building of Mespil House, one of Dublin's finest Georgian houses.
Elected to the Irish house of commons for Charleville, Co. Cork (1744–60), he often voted independently, despite holding several government positions. He resigned his professorship at TCD and fellowship of the College of Physicians and left Ireland in the late 1750s, possibly over a dispute concerning the conferral of a degree on Sir Fielding Ould (qv), master of the Rotunda hospital. Incorporated MD at Oxford 20 November 1759, he practised in London and became physician to the Holland family. In 1759 Lady Caroline Fox praised Barry's abilities and claimed that he had a great reputation in London; Samuel Johnson, on the other hand observed that he ‘brought his reputation with him but had not great success’ (Boswell, ii, 23) He became a fellow of the College of Physicians of London (1761) and a censor of the college (1763). He bought the estate of Dundeedy, near Macroom, Co. Cork, and was created a baronet 1 August 1775.
Among his published works were On consumption of the lungs (Dublin, 1726) and On the three different digestions and discharges of the human body (London, 1759). Among the innovations he introduced was the puncturing of tuberculous cavities to allow them to heal. A pioneer in the scientific analysis of wine, he published Observations . . . on the wines of the ancients (1775), an influential work on the history of wine which ‘combined a good knowledge of classical literature, chemistry and worldly wisdom’ (Ó Raifeartaigh, 2).
About 1770 he left London and settled in Bath, Somerset, where he died 25 March 1776. A portrait of Barry, attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds, is held in TCD. He married first (c.1725) an unknown woman (d. 1741) with whom he had four sons and two daughters; and secondly (December 1746) Jane Dopping, daughter of Anthony Dopping (1695–1743), bishop of Ossory, with whom he had no children. He was succeeded as baronet by his eldest son, Nathaniel, who had joined him as state physician (1749–85). Nathaniel was professor of chirurgery and midwifery at TCD, president of the King and Queen's College of Physicians (1767, 1776–85), and one of the leading physicians of his day. Another son, Robert (1731–93), a barrister, was MP for Charleville (1761–76) and a supporter of the Shannon interest in parliament. Edward's daughter Anne married Gen. Sir John Irwin (qv), and his daughter Jane married the poet and dramatist Robert Jephson (qv).