Mosse, Bartholomew (1712–59), obstetrician, philanthropist, and founder of the Rotunda Hospital, was probably born in Wexford or in Maryborough (Portlaoise), Queen's County (Laois), second son among five sons and two daughters of the Rev. Thomas Mosse, rector of Maryborough, and Martha Mosse (née Nisbet). Educated by private tutor before being apprenticed to surgeon John Stone (d. 1756) in Dublin, he qualified in 1733. He married (1734) Elizabeth Mann, who bore a son, but both died soon after.
After serving as surgeon to troops drafted to Minorca in 1738, he toured Europe. In Paris he studied at the Hôtel Dieu, the leading European centre for the teaching of midwifery, and at the Grégoire, a private midwifery school. Returning to Dublin, he established a practice in surgery and midwifery, but specialised in the latter after qualifying as licentiate in midwifery (1742) from the (R)K&QCP(I) – an unusual step, for midwifery was held in low esteem and only five candidates had qualified in the previous fifty years.
Appalled by Dublin's dreadful poverty, the medical and social deprivation borne by pregnant women, and the accompanying infanticide and high maternal and infant mortality, he decided to found a hospital to provide shelter, warmth, food, and medical care. Undaunted by lack of means and inexperience of hospital management, he enlisted the help of friends and purchased a house (formerly a theatre) in George's Lane (South Great George's St.). The Hospital for Poor Lying-in Women – the first maternity hospital in the British Isles – opened with ten beds on 15 March 1745. From the beginning detailed records were kept, and in July 1746 the governors reported that the hospital had admitted 209 women, suffered 1 maternal death, registered 208 births and 7 infant deaths, and discharged 190 healthy babies (Dublin Journal, 5–8 Mar. 1746). A pioneering medical and social initiative, it was an immediate success; it was also the first hospital in Ireland and England to undertake training in midwifery. Mosse hoped that each county would be served by trained personnel and make it unnecessary for student surgeons to train in France.
A shrewd and imaginative businessman, Mosse effectively raised funds by a variety of means. He received the proceeds from musical and dramatic events; his first production, of Ambrose Philips's (qv) tragedy ‘The distressed mother’ in the spring of 1745, both raised money and attracted attention to the hospital, which enabled him to increase accommodation and lay on a water supply. In 1746 he organised a performance of Handel's ‘Esther’; attended by the lord lieutenant, it attracted an audience of 500, buying tickets at half-a-guinea each. He gained a reputation as a musical impresario, his concerts attracted the rich and powerful, and the hospital received subscriptions and gifts in kind. Between 1746 and 1753 he organised five lotteries, but they were fraught with difficulties and he was suspected of dishonesty; returning from London in 1753, he was arrested in Holyhead for an alleged debt of £200, but escaped, returned to Ireland, published his accounts, and vindicated his name. When the hospital closed in 1757, it had 28 beds, had admitted 3,975 women and registered 4,045 births and 119 still births, and had a maternal mortality rate of 1.1 per cent and an infant mortality of 10 per cent.
Intent on providing a hospital with 150 beds – huge by contemporary standards – Mosse perspicaciously leased a four-acre site in 1748 on Great Britain (later Parnell) St., an area that was then becoming fashionable; his aim was to hold the attention of the rich and powerful and engage their charitable instincts. To raise funds, he spent £2,000 of his own money in laying out elegant pleasure gardens, which included promenades and bowling greens. In 1749 they were opened (with an entrance fee) to the public, and immediately became a fashionable resort. Mosse organised a summer season of three concerts a week by celebrated artists, which developed into an annual event over the following forty years and contributed significantly to Dublin's strong musical tradition and its reputation as a centre of the arts. The success of this venture enabled him to commission the architect Richard Castle (qv) to design a magnificent new hospital. On 24 May 1751 the lord mayor laid the foundation stone of the Hospital for the Relief of Poor Lying-in Women in Dublin, which soon became known as the Rotundo and later the Rotunda, after the round room designed by John Ensor (qv) to the east of the hospital and opened in 1767.
Mosse was involved in the detailed design of the hospital, and supervised the building process, engaging the most skilled workmen and buying materials, while simultaneously managing the George's Lane hospital, caring for its patients, organising the various fund-raising activities, and earning his own livelihood from private practice. Envisaging the hospital as a great national institution, Mosse petitioned in 1752 for a royal charter, which was granted in 1756; he also received the first of several parliamentary grants which paid £2,000 in recognition of his service.
The Rotunda was opened 8 December 1757 with great ceremony by the lord lieutenant. By the charter, Mosse was appointed governor and master for life and therefore responsible for the management of the hospital, provision of funds, and care of patients, and for the teaching of obstetrics to medical students and the training of midwives, thus pioneering the formal training of midwifery and establishing its importance in the medical curriculum. Mosse's philanthropy also envisaged the nurture, education, and apprenticeship of children entrusted by their parents to the care of the hospital. With its board of management and mastership system, he bequeathed an effective administration, which laid the foundation for the international reputation gained by the Rotunda Hospital and the Dublin school of midwifery. His advice was acted on by the Middlesex Hospital, London, when it first received maternity patients in 1747, and he corresponded with the first London maternity hospital (Brownlow St.).
He was elected to the Dublin City Knot of the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick (1754); was a member of the Dublin Society and the Charitable Musical Society; passed evenings in taverns until the early hours of the morning with his fellow musicians; collected pictures; and enjoyed carpentry. He fell ill in 1758, made his will in January 1759, and died 16 February in a friend's house at Cullenswood, Ranelagh, Co. Dublin. He was buried in Donnybrook cemetery, Co. Dublin. To defray his professional and personal debts, parliament granted money to the hospital and £1,500 to Jane Mosse (née Whittingham), his second wife and cousin, whom he married in 1743; they had two children. Their son, Charles (b. 1745), became a rector of the Church of Ireland and was elected (1769) to the board of governors of the Rotunda hospital. Their daughter, Jane, married (1774) Col. Henry Monck-Mason; their son William Monck Mason (qv) presented a portrait of Mosse (sketch by James Forde, artist unknown) to the hospital in 1833. The beautiful hospital chapel, elaborately decorated by stuccodore Bartholomew Cramillion (fl. 1755–72), commissioned by Mosse, was opened in 1762; his nephew, the Rev. Thomas Mosse, adopted and educated by Mosse, was appointed chaplain (1763) and governor (1768), and helped with the administration of the gardens and concerts until his death (1775). A plaster bust of Mosse by John van Nost (d. 1780) stands in the hospital; the annual Bartholomew Mosse Memorial Lecture (delivered each charter day, the first Friday of November) was instituted in 1961.