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Biographical entry Matheson, Iain William (1906 - 1992)

MRCS 1930; FRCS 1935; LRCP 1930.

18 November 1906
12 May 1992
General surgeon


Iain Matheson was one of those unsung heroes who throughout the war and the worst of the bombing kept the civilian services going with very little assistance in the poorest parts of London. He was born on 18 November 1906 in Blackheath, South London, where his father John was a general practitioner, and his mother Jessie May, née Henderson, was a nurse. He was educated at Westminster School and at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he qualified in 1930. After a number of junior appointments in smaller London hospitals he gained the FRCS in 1935 and became surgical registrar at the Brompton Hospital. In 1938 he was appointed consultant general surgeon to St Giles' Hospital, Camberwell, a post which he held until 1966. During the war he had not only to cope with the air raid casualties but because of the shortage of staff he had to take charge of medical, orthopaedic and childrens' wards as well. During the Blitz he ran two operating theatres per week of 20 hours, and when his operating theatre was bombed in 1942 he continued to operate in the boiler house! In quieter periods he became proficient with the rigid oesophagoscope and wrote several important papers on its use.

After the war he played a full part in administration of the newly-formed NHS, on the King's College Hospital Management Committee and the SE Metropolitan Regional Board. He also served on the BMA Central Consultants' and Specialists' Committee.

Always a voracious reader and amateur historian he became the BBC Brain of Britain in 1969. The genealogy of the Matheson clan was one of his particular interests, and it was no surprise that he retired to Plockton in the Western Highlands. On 2 October 1938 he married Helen Cope and they had two sons - Iain, who became a general practitioner, and Farquhar, a civil engineer - and a daughter, Alison. Iain senior died on 12 May 1992.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England