James Berry was born 4 February 1860 in Kingston, Ontario. He was the eldest son of Edward Berry (solicitor and shipowner) and Ada (née Bicknell). Edward Berry was originally from Leicester and lived in Croydon when in England. James Berry was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon and at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He was born with a short leg and a cleft palate.
At the London BS examination in 1885 Berry took first-class honours and won the university scholarship and gold medal. He served as house surgeon at St Bartholomew's to Sir Thomas Smith and was demonstrator of anatomy. He then became surgical registrar. In 1885 he became surgeon to the Alexandra Hospital for Diseases of the Hip (Queen Square, London) and in 1891 Berry was also elected surgeon to the Royal Free Hospital. As one of the leading general surgeons in London Berry was particularly interested in cleft palates and goitre.
When war broke out in 1914 Berry's knowledge of Serbia led him and his wife to volunteer for medical service there. They organised the Anglo-Serbian hospital unit, under the British Red Cross Society and largely from the Royal Free Hospital. It was established early-1915 at Vrnjatchka Banja. They were over-run in 1916 by the Austro-Hungarian army and an exhcange of prisoners was arranged. Berry then led a Red Cross unit in Romania and was with the Serbian army at Odessa, 1916-1917. He was awarded the Orders of the Star of Romania, St Sava or Serbia and St Anna of Russia. He returned to England in 1917 and was honorary surgeon at the military hospitals at Napsbury and Bermonsdsey. He was president of the Medical Society of London, 1921-1922; a member of the Council of the RCSEng, 1923-1929; president of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1926-1928. He was knighted in 1925. He retired in 1927 and was elected consulting surgeon to the Royal Free Hospital.
In 1891 Berry married Dr Frances May Dickinson, anaesthetist at the Royal Free Hospital. She was also assistant medical officer (education) to the London County Council, president of the association of registered medical women, and honorary secretary of the section of anaesthetics at the Royal Society of Medicine. She accompanied her husband in all of his professional work and in his expeditions tot he Near East, both in peace and in war. She died 15 April 1934, aged 76. On 4 May 1935 Sir James Berry married Mabel Marian Ingram, MRCS. She had been a member of his Red Cross units in Serbia, Rumania and South Russia. There were no children from either marriage.
Sir James Berry died 17 March 1946, aged 86.
Berry won the Jacksonian Prize in 1886 for his essay on "The Pathology, diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases of the thryroid gland" and was made a lauréat of the Académie de Médecine in Paris. He delivered three Hunterian lectures, in June 1891, on "Goitre, its pathology, diagnosis and surgical treatment".
The Thyroid, in Sir Henry Butlin's "Operative Surgery of Malignant Diseases" (2nd edition, London, 1900).
"Diseases of the thyroid gland and their surgical treatment" (London, 1901).
"A Manual of surgical diagnosis" (London, 1904).
"Hare-lip and cleft-palate", with T. P. Legg (London, 1912).
"Surgery of the thyroid gland" (Lettsomian lectures, Medical Society of London), Lancet, 1913, 1, 583, 668, 737.
"Clinical notes on malignant tumours of long bones", Clinical Journal, 1914, 43, 465, 487.
"The Story of a Red Cross unit in Serbia", with F. M. Berry and W. L. Blease (London, 1916).
"Fortified churches of southern Transylvania", Archaeologia, 1919.
"Fallen idols", Transactions of Medical Society of London, 1932, 55, 261.
"A Cromwellian Major-General, the career of Colonel James Berry: 1610-1691", with Stephen G. Lee