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Oliver Wolf Sacks (born July 9, 1933, London) is a neurologist who has written popular books about his patients. He considers it following the tradition of 19th-century "clinical anecdotes", literary-style informal case histories. His favorite example is Alexander Luria's The Mind of a Mnemonist. His famous cousin is the late Abba Eban.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Sacks earned his medical degrees from Oxford University while a member of The Queen's College and became a resident in neurology at UCLA. He has lived in New York since 1965. He is a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, adjunct professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, and consultant neurologist to theLittle Sisters of the Poor. He has a practice in New York City.
Sacks describes his cases with little clinical detail, concentrating on the experiences of the patient (which in one case 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 patients of the 1920s sleeping sickness encephalitis lethargica epidemic. It 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. (It 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 Litigo-bodig; a devastating combination of ALS, dementia, and Parkinson's disease. 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 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.
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 Bay detainment camp|Guantanamo detainees who had committed themselves to hunger strikes. 
Books[edit | edit source]
- Migraine (1970)
- Awakenings (1973)
- A Leg to Stand On (1984) (Sacks's own experience of losing the control of his legs after an accident)
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985)
- Seeing Voices: A Journey Into The Land of the Deaf. (1989). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-5200-6083-0.
- An Anthropologist on Mars (1995)
- The Island of the Colorblind (1997) (total congenital color blindness in an island society)
- Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001)
- Oaxaca Journal (2002)
Essays[edit | edit source]
- "The Mind's Eye (Oliver Sacks)" (positive experiences of blind people) - published in "The Best American Essays 2004", Ed. Robert Atwan
Television series[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Occurrence of beta-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) in ALS/PDC patients from Guam, National Institutes of Health, October 11 2004
- Cycad neurotoxins, consumption of flying foxes, and ALS-PDC disease in Guam, National Institutes of Health, November 26 2002
- Medics call for US to stop Guantanamo force feeding, The Scotsman, March 10 2006
[edit | edit source]
- Oliver Sacks website
- Oliver Sacks Fan page
- 1989 audio interview with Oliver Sacks by Don Swaim
- Wired article (04/2002)
- New York Times Op-Ed piece about encephalitis lethargica.
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