He was one of the greatest scribes of science of the past 50 years. Maybe thegreatest.
His 1973 book “Awakenings” brought readers into a hospital psych ward, and eventually became an Academy Award-winning movie. (Robin Williams played a slightly fictionalized role of Sacks in the film.) His 1985 book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” helped demystify Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s, and othermisfirings of the brain.
His 1995 book, “An Anthropologist on Mars,” took its name from Sacks’ New Yorker profile of autistic scientist Temple Grandin, presaging our broader grappling with autism.
And he wrote 10 other books besides.
I came to Sacks late in his life, although perhaps early in my mine. I remember buying “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” in a Washington bookstore one evening a decade ago and being captivated by the tales it told — medicine as a mystery, but also as an adventure story. (I finished the book before the sun came up the next morning, rapt. Perhaps Sacks invented a term for such fervor for his work; between his prolific essays and articles, there’s so much of his canon I still have yet to read.)
However you calculate literary acclaim and popular demand, Sacks was a titan. And like fellow doctors-turned-authors Atul Gawande and Sherwin Nuland, an intermediary between the world and the obscure workings of our minds and bodies. He wrote with grace, wit, and extraordinary humanity.
And after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer this year, Sacks took to the pages of the New York Times for a series of reflections. On how our brains invent mishearings. On how he coped with the thought of death. And on his last days of rest.
At end of life, Sacks was more productive than most of us are in life. He gave us one final gift, one concluding lesson — using his own life as a case history.
“When people die, they cannot be replaced,” Sacks wrote at the New York Timesin February, when sharing his terminal diagnosis with the world. “They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Oliver Sacks, doktor, profesör, yazari konuşmacı ve hepsinden önce bir bilim insanıydı. Unvanları ve başarıları saymakla bitmeyen, ilaç tedavisinin babası Sacks, 82 yaşında, hayatını sürdürdüğü New York'ta hayata gözlerini yumdu.