Sacks, Oliver

Sacks, Oliver (Wolf)

(1933–  ) neurologist, writer; born in London, England. Educated at Oxford, he came to the U.S.A. in 1960, and after completing advanced studies at the University of California: Los Angeles (1960–65), he joined the neurology faculty at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, N.Y.) (1965), and also became a consultant neurologist at various New York hospitals. Even in his first book, Migraine: Evolution of a Common Disorder (1970; expanded edition 1985), he was laying forth his unorthodox approach of stressing links between mental/emotional states and physical/bodily afflictions—essentially a holistic approach. Meanwhile, in the late 1960s he had worked in a New York hospital where he encountered some 80 people suffering from a "sleeping sickness" that had spread around the world about 1916 to 1920; he experimented by giving some of them the drug L-DOPA and obtained what at first seemed to be amazing results (for after "awakening," most soon regressed); he described this experience in Awakenings (1973), a book that inspired the Harold Pinter play, A Kind of Alaska, and the movie, Awakenings (1992). Controversial in his profession for some of his theories, he also published articles on his "cases" in nonprofessional magazines, then collected them in such books as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985). His book, A Leg to Stand On (1984), went even further in his tendency to link the professional and personal, basing his findings on an accident that temporarily cost him the use of a leg, and thereby promoting his notion of the unity of the complex interactions of body, mind, and behavior.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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Sacks, Oliver. An Anthropologist on Mars (New York: Knopf, 1995), pp.