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Oliver Wolf Sacks (born July 9, 1933, London), is a United States-based British neurologist, who has written popular books about his patients; the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.
Sacks considers that his literary style follows the tradition of 19th-century "clinical anecdotes", a literary-style that included informal case histories, following the writings of Alexander Luria. Sacks is a childhood friend of Jonathan Miller and a cousin of Robert Aumann and the late Abba Eban.
In 2007, Columbia University appointed Sacks as "its first Columbia artist, a newly created designation."
Additional recommended knowledge
The fourth and youngest child of a prosperous North London Jewish medical family: his father Sam a doctor, his mother Elsie a surgeon. Aged six in 1939, his parents sent him to a boarding school in the Midlands for four years to keep him out of harm's way. During his childhood, Sacks was passionate about chemistry and tried to collect samples of all the elements and did many experiments in his home laboratory. He derived much inspiration from his uncle Dave, as told in Sacks' autobiographical book Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood.
Sacks earned his medical degrees from Oxford University while a member of The Queen's College. In 1960, he went to Canada on holiday, and on arrival sent his parents a one-word telegram: "Staying". Sacks hitch-hiked to the Rockies, and then down to San Francisco, where he fell in with the poet and motorcycle enthusiast, Thom Gunn. Sacks became a resident in neurology at UCLA.
In 1966, Sacks began working as a consulting neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Health Services), a chronic care facility in the Bronx. It was here that he first encountered a group of patients, many of whom had spent decades unable to initiate movement due to the devastating effects of the 1920s sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica. His work at Beth Abraham provided the foundation on which the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), where Sacks is currently an honorary medical advisor, is built. In 2000, he was honored with the IMNF’s Music Has Power Award for his contributions towards advancing knowledge of the power of music to awaken and heal, and again in 2006 to commemorate his 40th year at Beth Abraham and recognize his dedication to its patients.
Sacks was formerly a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, adjunct professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, where he worked for over 43 years. On September 1, 2007, he became professor of clinical neurology and clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, leading that department while serving as Columbia University's first "artist"—a new position the university hopes will help bridge the gap between disciplines such as medicine, law, and economics. He remains a consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and maintains a practice in New York City.
Sacks describes his cases with little clinical detail, concentrating on the experiences of the patient (in the case of his A Leg to Stand On, the patient was himself). The patients he describes are often able to adapt to their situation in different ways despite the fact that their neurological conditions are usually considered incurable. His most famous book, Awakenings, upon which the movie of the same name is based, describes his experiences using the new drug L-Dopa on Beth Abraham post-encephalitic patients in 1969. Awakenings was also the subject of the first film made in the British television series Discovery.
In his other books, he describes cases of Tourette syndrome and various effects of Parkinson's disease. The title article of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is about a man with visual agnosia and was the subject of a 1986 opera by Michael Nyman. The title article of An Anthropologist on Mars is about Temple Grandin, a professor with high-functioning autism. In his book The Island of the Colour-blind he describes the Chamorro people of Guam, who have a high incidence of a form of ALS known as Lytico-bodig (a devastating combination of ALS, dementia, and parkinsonism). Along with Paul Cox, Sacks is responsible for the resurgence in interest in the Guam ALS cluster, and has published papers setting out an environmental cause for the cluster, namely toxins such as beta-methylamino L-alanine (BMAA) from the cycad nut accumulating by biomagnification in the flying fox bat.
Sacks's writings have been translated into 21 languages, including Catalan, Finnish, and Turkish. He was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science in 2001. Oxford University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in June 2005. In March 2006, he was one of 263 doctors who published an open letter in The Lancet criticizing American military doctors who administered or oversaw the force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees who had committed themselves to hunger strikes.
Essays and articles
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Oliver_Sacks". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|