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Bartholomew Mosse was born in 1712, the sixth child of the Reverend Thomas Mosse, who had come to Ireland as a chaplain to King William III. After the Battle of the Boyne, he was appointed Rector of Mayborough. Bartholomew was educated by a tutor at home until he was 17 when he became apprenticed for five years to Mr John Stone, a barber-surgeon in Dublin. After receiving his qualification in 1733 from the surgeon-general in Ireland, he is thought to have practised as an assistant surgeon in Dublin for the next five years.
In 1734 he married Elizabeth Mann with whom he had a son in 1737, but both mother and child died shortly after the birth. At the age of 26 Mosse was appointed surgeon in charge of a draft of troops dispatched to Minorca during the War of the Spanish Succession. With a view to improving his surgical and midwifery skills, he subsequently travelled in England, France, and Holland, before returning to Dublin (fig 1).1 2
In 1742, at the age of 30, Mosse became a licentiate in midwifery of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians, and from then on determined to devote himself to midwifery. At that time most mothers were delivered by traditional midwives and maternal and infant mortality were very high; midwifery was considered to be fit only for handywomen and surgeons. Mosse was appalled by conditions for the poor: “...the misery of the poor women of the city of Dublin, at the time of their lying-in, would scarcely be conceived by any who had not been an eye witness of their wretched circumstances; that their lodgings were generally in cold garrets, open to every wind, or in damp cellars, subject to floods from excessive rains; destitute of attendance, …