Neurologist, author Oliver Sacks dies

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Awakenings author dies aged 82.

Oliver Sacks, the beloved neurologist and author who was famous for books like “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” has died, according to the New York Times. Prominent Jewish neurologist, professor and writer, Oliver Sacks, died in his home at the age of 82 on Sunday, losing the battle against metastatic liver cancer, according to his longtime personal assistant, Kate Edgar. The London-born academic’s 1973 memoir Awakenings, about his efforts to use the drug L-Dopa to bring patients who survived the 1917-1928 encephalitis epidemic out of their persistent catatonic state, was turned into a 1990 Hollywood film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. A friend and colleague, Orrin Devinsky, who is a professor of neurology at New York University, where Sacks worked for many years, emailed NPR to confirm the death. “As a medical doctor and a writer, Dr. Dr Sacks was awarded several honorary degrees recognising his contribution to science and literature, and was made a CBE in 2008 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

More than a million copies of his books are in print in the United States, his work was adapted for film and stage, and he received about 10,000 letters a year. (‘I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90 or in prison,’ he once said.) “Dr. Sacks variously described his books and essays as case histories, pathographies, clinical tales or ‘neurological novels.’ His subjects included Madeleine J., a blind woman who perceived her hands only as useless ‘lumps of dough’; Jimmie G., a submarine radio operator whose amnesia stranded him for more than three decades in 1945; and Dr. Sacks authored multiple best selling books, including Awakenings, a book based on his treatments on a group of patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica who had been unable to move on their own for years. They emerge as the very types of our neuroscientific age.” In his later life, Sacks began studying hallucinations, partly inspired by his youthful experimentation with LSD. In an interview with Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air, in 2012, Sacks said: “I was fascinated that one could have such perceptual changes, and also that they went with a certain feeling of significance, an almost numinous feeling.

I’m strongly atheist by disposition, but nonetheless when this happened, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘That must be what the hand of God is like.’ ” In an Op-Ed that appeared in the Times in February, Sacks announced that what had started out as a melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver and that he didn’t have long to live. “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can,” he wrote. “I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love,” Sacks wrote. “In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.” “[N]ow, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself.

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