The Mary Walker effect: Mary Broadfoot Walker

History Stuart J. McCarter, David B. Burkholder, James P.Klaas Humanities, Jennifer M. Martinez-Thompson, Christopher J. Boes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Mary Broadfoot Walker (1888–1974) was the first to demonstrate the ‘Mary Walker effect’ describing the weakness of other muscle groups following release of the arteriovenous occlusion of an unrelated exercising muscle Abstract group in patients with myasthenia gravis, which led to the search for a circulating causative agent for myasthenia gravis. She was the first to clearly demonstrate that strength temporarily improved in patients with myasthenia gravis with physostigmine or Prostigmin (neostigmine). This dramatic treatment response has been erroneously termed the ‘Mary Walker effect’. Further, she noted hypokalaemia during attacks of weakness in familial periodic paralysis, pioneering treatment with potassium chloride. Although Mary Walker practiced in a nonacademic setting and trained at a time when women were not allowed to train alongside men, she was the first to convincingly demonstrate three life-changing treatments in the field of neuromuscular medicine, a feat that few physicians of any era can claim.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-259
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Familial periodic paralysis
  • History of neurology
  • Mary Walker
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Prostigmin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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