PA-BIO-L ArchivesArchiver > PA-BIO > 2005-03 > 1110167051
Subject: BIO: RALPH CHARLES MATSON AND RAY WILLIAM MATSON
Date: Sun, 6 Mar 2005 22:44:11 EST
Matson, Ralph Charles (21 Jan. 1880-26 Oct. 1945), and Ray William Matson
(21 Jan. 1880-12 Sept. 1934), surgeons and pioneers in the treatment of
pulmonary tuberculosis, were born in Brookville, Pennsylvania, the sons of John
Matson and Minerva Brady, farmers. The Matsons received their M.D.s from the
University of Oregon Medical College in 1902. They were interns and resident
physicians at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland from 1902 to 1905.
As was typical for the times, both Matsons did postgraduate study abroad.
Ralph Matson studied at Cambridge University and St. Mary's Hospital, London
(1906); at London one of his coworkers in the bacteriology laboratory was
Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. He also studied at the University
of Berlin, the University of Vienna, the Academy of Medicine (Dusseldorf,
Germany) during 1911-1912, and at Victoria Park and St. Mary's hospitals
(London) and the University of Vienna (1923-1925). Ray Matson did postgraduate
study at the University of Vienna (1909, 1914, 1920, 1925), the University of
London (1909), and the University of Paris (1919).
The death of the Matsons' father from tuberculosis perhaps influenced the
choice of their professional medical specialty. In 1909 Ralph Matson became
bacteriologist and Ray Matson became pathologist at the Portland Open Air
Sanatorium, which was founded in 1905 as the first tuberculosis institution in the
Pacific Northwest. At this institution, following a regimen instituted at
Saranac Lake in New York state, fresh air, exercise, and special diet were
prescribed for the patients. In 1912 the Matsons became the permanent staff
doctors and co-medical directors of this sanatorium. Ralph would stay in this
position until 1925, Ray until 1934. In 1913 at the sanatorium the Matsons
introduced the X-ray machine and induced artificial pneumothorax therapy to collapse
one or both lungs with air, both firsts in the Pacific Northwest. Probably
it was in the same year that the Matsons and Marr Bisaillon established the
first specialized tuberculosis practice in Portland.
Both Matsons served in World War I. Ralph Matson went to Europe in 1916 with
the Harvard University Surgical Team that was associated with the Royal Army
Medical Corps. He worked in a mobile laboratory close to the front to study
the treatment of war wounds, especially chest wounds complicated by empyema
(pus in the pleural cavity). His services were recognized with an award of the
French Legion of Honor. When the United States entered the war, both Matsons
became majors in the Army Medical Corps. Ray Matson gained further insights
into lung problems as a gas officer with the Ninety-first American Division
in France. Both Matsons were chief medical examiners and tuberculosis
specialists at Camp Lewis, Washington, from late 1917 to 1919. From 1919 to 1920
Ralph Matson was chief of staff at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver where
he led a training program for medical officers in the diagnosis of
In Germany after the war, Ralph Matson learned the technique of
thoracoplasty (surgery to reshape the thorax permanently to compress the lung). In 1932
the two brothers and Bisaillon performed the first thoracoplasty in the
Pacific Northwest at the Portland Open Air Sanatorium. In 1914 the Matsons had
begun doing a surgical procedure to interrupt one phrenic nerve to paralyze the
diaphragm in order to limit motion of a diseased lung, an operation they had
learned in Europe and which they introduced at the sanatorium. The Matsons and
Bisaillon also took the lead in the Pacific Northwest in using pneumothorax
therapy and pioneered in the treatment of one of its common complications,
tuberculosis empyema, through injecting oil (oleothorax) or certain chemicals
in the space around the lung. Ralph Matson was one of the first surgeons in
the United States to use intraplural pneumolysis, a procedure in which
adhesions limiting the collapse of a lung, and thus the efficacy of pneumothorax
treatment, could be divided by cautery.
Other operations that Ralph Matson pioneered in the Pacific Northwest were
pulmonary resections (removal of part or all of the lung) in the treatment of
lung cancer and severe lung infections and the operation to create an
extrapleural space at the top of the lung to collapse cavities there. The space so
could be maintained by periodic refills of air or ping-pong balls or gauze
packing surrounded by plastic film. The Matsons' influence on the treatment of
tuberculosis was spread through their articles on pneumothorax, phrenic
nerve surgery, and oleothorax and through Ralph Matson's presence at the
University of Oregon Medical School, where he excelled at teaching.
The reputation of the Matsons was recognized both in the United States and
abroad through the many distinctions they received. Ralph Matson was a
founding member in 1917 of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery and a
fellow of many scientific societies. He was a vice president of the National
Tuberculosis Association and an editor of Diseases of the Chest. Ray Matson was
president of the Portland Academy of Medicine, a vice president of the
National Tuberculosis Association, and a vice president of the American
Clinical and Climatological Association. Ralph Matson married Adeline Ferarri in
1907; they had one child before they divorced. He married Chiara DeBona (or
de Bona) in 1923; this union produced no children. In 1907 Ray Matson married
Carolyn Holmes; they had no children.
The personalities of the twin brothers contributed to their influence as
administrators, surgeons, and teachers. They had flair, courage, and energy.
They played polo, steeplechased, drove fast cars, and flew airplanes. Even Ray
Matson's accidental death, and that of a young female companion, in the fiery
wreckage of their sports car was sensational. Yet in time much of the Matsons'
work--as is inevitable in the process of scientific advance--became obsolete
with the discovery of new drugs, beginning in 1944 with streptomycin, that
essentially made intraplural pneumonolysis and pneumothorax no longer of
concern. Both brothers died in Portland.
The most comprehensive account of the Matsons' life and work in the context
of the history of the treatment of tuberculosis is John E. Tuhy, Annals of
the Thoracic Clinic (1978). Olof Larsell, The Doctor in Oregon (1947), also
provides a contextual basis for Ralph Matson's career. More technical surveys of
their accomplishments are in Allen K. Kraus, "Ray William Matson,
1880-1934," American Journal of Tuberculosis 31 (1935): 250-53, and James T. Speros,
"Ralph Charles Matson: 1880-1945," Diseases of the Chest 11 (1945): 687-88.
Gordon B. Dodds
Gordon B. Dodds. "Matson, Ralph Charles, and Ray William Matson";
(http://www.anb.org/articles/12/12-01512.html) ; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright
(c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Publishedby Oxford
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