Lives of the fellows

Richard Michael Mason

b.27 September 1917 d.30 June 1977
BM BCh Oxon(1942) MA(1943) MRCP(1948) DM(1953) FRCP(1962)

Michael Mason was born in London but spent the first five years of his life in India. He came of an old Suffolk family and his father, Sir Laurence Mason, CIE OBE MC, was Inspector General of Forests in India. His mother, Margaret Menella, was the daughter of the Revd HC Jollye, rector at Walton, Warwickshire. Michael was educated at Marlborough, Christ Church, Oxford, and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he qualified in 1942.

He trained as a pilot in the Oxford University Air Squadron and joined the RAF as a medical officer in 1943, serving in the first jet squadron in the Allied Air Forces. He saw active service in Germany and during the liberation of Denmark. In 1947, on demobilization, he became medical registrar at Bart’s. He decided to specialize in rheumatology and worked for WSC Copeman and Oswald Savage at the West London Hospital. He was appointed consultant in the department of physical medicine, Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield, in 1951 and joined WS Tegner in 1955 as consultant to the London Hospital. He also held appointments as consultant to King Edward VII Hospital for Officers, Osborne House, and the Royal Masonic Hospital, and was particularly pleased to become civil consultant in rheumatology to the Royal Air Force in 1970.

From 1968 to 1971 he was president of the British Association of Physical Medicine and Rheumatology (later British Association for Rheumatology and Rehabilitation) and president of the Heberden Society in 1974. He was a leading influence on the emergence of the specialty of rheumatology from its origins in physical medicine. He was closely associated with the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council, becoming chairman of the executive committee in 1971 until his death. Under his chairmanship the income and work of this charity greatly expanded, laboratories being built for research into rheumatic diseases at the London. Happily, during his lifetime, the seminar room at the London was named the Michael Mason Room, and his portrait hangs there.

Although Michael had to pace himself for a number of years, for health reasons, he enjoyed the large amount of time he devoted to teaching. His teaching was colourful and practical and much sought after both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, at home and abroad. In 1967 he was visiting professor at Sydney University. Michael was masterly as a chairman of symposia and he wrote fluently, contributing to many standard textbooks as well as being coeditor, with HLF Currey, of An Introduction to Clinical Rheumatology. He gave the Samuel Hyde memorial lecture ‘Clinical Trials’ at the Royal Society of Medicine in 1962 and was chosen to give the Heberden round in 1966 - a vivid demonstration of Behcet’s syndrome. His own research interests were largely clinical and often linked associated specialties; for example, drug-trial techniques, orthopaedic surgery, and doctor-patient communication. As a clinician his talents had breadth and depth; not only was he an outstanding diagnostician and a master at eliciting physical signs but he had the remarkable ability of giving every patient his undivided attention and sympathy.

He married Heather, daughter of Lt Colonel Robert Johnston OBE, in 1943, and they had a son and a daughter. Michael had played squash for the RAF, and his hobbies included skiing and yachting.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1977, 2, 198; Lancet, 1977, 2, 151]

(Volume VII, page 386)

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