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History of Neurology: Seminal Citations
May 1998

Myasthenia Gravis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.

 

CHRISTOPHER G.GOETZMD

Arch Neurol. 1998;55(5):745-746. doi:10.1001/archneur.55.5.745

The description by Thomas Willis in 16721 of a "prudent and honest woman" with fluctuating muscle weakness "not only in the members but also in her tongue" is often cited by English-speaking authors as the first description of a case of myasthenia gravis. However, Willis' brief comment, first in Latin and then translated into English by Pordage in 1683,2 was not associated with myasthenia gravis until 1903,3 20 years after the condition had been described in standard German medical journals and differentiated from typical progressive bulbar paralysis, or "la paralysie glosso-labio-laryngée" as described by Duchenne.4 The article herein cites a number of seminal quotations from the early history of myasthenia gravis and traces work up through 1936, just prior to when thymic surgery was first used to treat the disorder.

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