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'Freeman Dyson was a hero of mine'


Oliver Sacks and the steak knife tracheotomy
Jeremy Bernstein Scientist
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I'm a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and Oliver's a member and we became quite good friends. He's got this mannerism, which he speaks rather hesitatingly and he has… there's a lot of sounds that come out before he… oh, ah, erm. So I asked Oliver… you know, he's a neurologist. And I said, 'Oliver, have you ever actually cured anybody of anything?' Because he tells these wonderful stories, you know, that's what he does. He's an anthropologist of neurologists, people have said. And he said, 'Oh, ah, well, I was in a restaurant once and a man was choking and I gave him a tracheotomy with a steak knife', he told me. So I asked Jonathan if that story was true and Jonathan said, 'Of course it's not true. If you talk to Oliver, ask him if the story is true. If he gave somebody in a restaurant a tracheotomy with a steak knife'. I have no idea.

Born in 1929, Jeremy Bernstein is an American physicist, educator and writer known for the clarity of his writing for the lay reader on the major issues of modern physics. After graduating from Harvard University, Bernstein worked at Harvard and at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. In 1962 he became an Associate Professor of Physics at New York University, and later a Professor of Physics at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, a position he continues to hold. He was also on the staff of The New Yorker magazine.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: New Yorker, Oliver Sacks, Jonathan Miller

Duration: 1 minute, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: 15th June 2011

Date story went live: 28 October 2011