Sacks, Oliver Wolf

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sacks, Oliver Wolf

Oliver Wolf Sacks, 1933–2015, British neurologist and author, b. London, educated at Queen's College, Oxford. In 1960 he moved to the United States, where he continued his medical training. He began an association with Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City in 1965, later becoming a professor of neurology there. In 2007 he became professor of clinical neurology and clinical psychology at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, then in 2012 professor of neurology at the New York Univ. School of Medicine. He also worked in area psychiatric centers and nursing homes. A creative medical thinker, Sacks was known for an approach to medicine that humanizes his patients, demystifies their disorders, and is concerned with the complex psychological, moral, and spiritual elements of illness and treatment. His books, many of them best sellers and some of them adapted for film or stage, include Awakenings (1973), which first brought him a widespread readership, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), The Island of the Colorblind (1997), Musicophilia (2007), The Mind's Eye (2010), and Hallucinations (2012). Written with a profound sympathy for his patients and a deep understanding of their problems, his books describe case histories of people with neurological and perceptual disorders, explore the physiological and chemical causes of such illnesses, and exhibit a fascination with the creativity of the mind as it copes with disability. River of Consciousness (2017) is an essay anthology whose variety gives a glimpse into Sack's life and mind and his scientific interests.

See his account of his experiences as a patient, A Leg to Stand On (1984); his memoir of boyhood, Uncle Tungsten (2001) and his autobiography, On the Move (2015); memoir by B. Hayes, his partner (2017).

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