Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 17, 1995

Neuroscientist Earl Walker Dead at 87,
Pioneer in Understanding Human Brain

     A. Earl Walker, an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and
neuroscientist and the former chairman of the Division of
Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, died
Sunday, Jan. 1, of an apparent heart attack while driving with
his wife in New Mexico. He was 87.
     Dr. Walker's former colleagues and students described him as
a pioneer in understanding the human brain and one of the most
innovative neurological researchers and teachers in modern
     "He was such an important figure in neurosurgery," said
Donlin Long, professor and chairman of the Department of
Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine. "He had a hand in
educating an entire generation of neurosurgeons. He was the
ultimate professor, always knowledgeable, always teaching, always
reaching for more."
     Dr. Walker published more than 400 research papers and eight
books, including the 1938 study The Primate Thalamus, which Dr.
Long described as "one of the most important works of the
mid-century" for understanding the function of the human brain. 
     Dr. Walker was known as a quiet, humble, disciplined man of
integrity who taught by example and who challenged and encouraged
those who worked with him. Although considered difficult to
approach by some, others found him patient and encouraging.
     "He intimidated some people, made some people afraid because
he was always right," said George B. Udvarhelyi, professor
emeritus of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine. "But he was
very shy and helpful. His relentless pursuit of excellence deeply
impressed all those who had the opportunity to work with him."
     Born in 1907 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Dr. Walker received his
medical degree from the University of Alberta in 1930. He
accepted the position of professor of neurological surgery at
Hopkins in 1947, and during his 25-year tenure established the
Division of Neurosurgery and initiated training in neurosurgery,
neuropathology, electroencephalography, neuroradiology,
neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and, to some extent, neurology.
     He also established the formal resident training program in
neurosurgery with an emphasis on research and medical
scholarship. His groundbreaking experiments with epilepsy
provided the framework for subsequent research in that area.
     "His greatest contribution was insisting on research in
neurosurgery and neurology in general," Dr. Long said. The
Electrophys-iology Laboratories at Hopkins, established by Dr.
Walker, were dedicated in his name in 1993. Symposia were held
last fall in his honor at Hopkins and the University of New
Mexico, where he had just retired from a full-time position. He
was professor emeritus at both universities. Until his death, he
maintained an active schedule of professional activities,
including teaching, research and international travel.
     "His crucial role in the development of the neurosciences
will stand the test of time," said Michael E. Johns, dean of the
School of Medicine.
     Dr. Walker is survived by his wife, Agnes Marshall Walker,
of Albuquerque; two daughters; and a son. A memorial service will
be held at Hopkins, although a date has not yet been set.
Memorial gifts honoring Dr. Walker may be sent to Donna Frithsen,
Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, 1620 McElderry St., Baltimore,
Md. 21205-1911.

Go back to Previous Page

Go to Gazette Homepage