Rudolph Matas

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Rudolph Matas
Rudolph Matas and George Grey Turner after the presentation of a silver plaque in the Matas Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, October 15, 1949

Rudolph Matas (September 12, 1860 – September 23, 1957), a prominent and innovative surgeon was born outside of New Orleans in Bonnet Carre, Louisiana. He spent much of his childhood in his parents' native land of Spain, returning to the New Orleans in 1877 to begin his medical training at the Medical School of the University of Louisiana, now known as Tulane University School of Medicine, receiving his medical degree in 1880 at 19 years old. Matas is one of Tulane's most distinguished alumni, with 42 years of teaching in the medical school and a vast array of accomplishments decorating his medical career.

He was the first to use spinal anesthesia in the United States in 1889, the developer of the intravenous drip technique, of suction, of siphonage in abdominal operations, and the first to surgically repair aneurysms. Furthermore, he was the first to perform a Kondoleon operation for elephantiasis in the US. Many of his publications continue to be cited through the 2000s. William Osler called him the "Father of Vascular Surgery." He was a founding member of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, and a member of its first council in 1917, serving as its third President in 1919. During World War I, he led the United States School for War Fractures.[1] The Rudolph Matas Award in vascular surgery was established in 2004 to recognize "a lifetime of excellence, achievement and contributions to the field of Vascular Surgery."[2]

Matas contributed a great deal to New Orleans, including directing the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, actively supporting the Charity Hospital (New Orleans), and working as Professor of Surgery at Tulane University. He was named by the Times-Picayune as one of the individuals that defined New Orleans in the 20th Century. The school's surgical interest group is named in his honor, Rudolph Matas Surgical Society, as is the Rudolph Matas Health Sciences Library. Ironically, the journal Science stated at the time that "his colleagues have felt for many years that by consulting him they could extract more information from his encyclopedic mind than they could obtain from a visit to a library".[3]

In Isidore Cohn's 1960 book, it was revealed that William Stewart Halsted had operated on Matas for "a mass" in 1903.[4] The story of Matas' "secret operation" circulated in New Orleans for many years. On Matas's death, the autopsy revealed the right testicle had been removed surgically many years ago.[5] Matas died on September 23, 1957, at the age of 97, leaving his estate to medicine.

Rudolph Matas Elementary School in Metairie, Louisiana is named in his honor.


  1. ^ AATS: Council Meetings. Accessed June 13, 2007.
  2. ^ The Rudolph Matas Award Recipients. Southern Association for Vascular Surgery
  3. ^ "An Aerial Photographic Survey". Science. 79 (2038): 51. 1934. doi:10.1126/science.79.2038.51.
  4. ^ Cohn, Isidore. Rudolph Matas: a Biography of One of the Great Pioneers in Surgery. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1960.
  5. ^ Nunn, DB (1992). "Dr. Halsted's secret operation on Dr. Matas". Annals of Surgery. 216 (1): 87–93. doi:10.1097/00000658-199207000-00013. PMC 1242551. PMID 1632707.


  • AATS: Biography – Rudolph Matas. Accessed June 13, 2007.
  • Southern History. Rudolph Matas Accessed June 13, 2007.
  • Rudolph Matas, M.D. (1860–1957), papers (ca. 1860–1960), Manuscripts Collection 868, 55 feet (17 m). Correspondence, lectures, speeches, diaries, and other materials documenting Matas' career as physician, surgeon, teacher, and scientist. Located in the Tulane Manuscripts Department, Tulane University's Special Collections Division: [1].
  • Rudolph Matas Bibliography compiled by staff members of the Rudolph Matas Library (PDF, 56MB) [2]

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