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Writing, dictating, the last of the Awakenings case histories


Encouragement from James Purdon Martin
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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An elderly neurologist, Purdon Martin – James Purdon Martin – in England, when he retired at the age of 65, decided to spend his retirement looking and working with post-encephalitic patients in London. And he wrote a wonderful book on the subject. And he also made a special journey to New York in September of '69 to see my patients. And that couldn’t have been easy for him, because I think he was already in his 80s. He said he had seen nothing like this since the acute days of the epidemic, 50 years earlier. And he very strongly said, ‘You must write about this, and all of this in detail’.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: James Purdon Martin

Duration: 56 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012