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Success of Awakenings documentary


Reasons for agreeing to Awakenings documentary
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I had had one review in London which although it was a positive review, irritated me slightly. I, of course, had not said that this was Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, New York. I gave it another name, and I said that it was in the village of Bexley-on-Hudson. And anyhow, one of the reviews said, 'This is an amazing book, the more so since Sacks is talking about non-existent patients in a non-existent hospital, who have supposedly had a non-existent disease, because there was no worldwide epidemic of sleepy sickness in the 1920s'. So it was partly this, and partly the patients also being behind the filming, and they... I had shared this review with some of them. And some of them laughed at it and said, 'Show us, or the book will never be believed'. And so I... I felt my credulity, I don’t have the right... take that back, I felt my credibility, my believability, was somewhat on the line and this was one of the reasons why, after meeting Duncan and after his meeting the patients, I said, let’s go ahead.

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: Beth Abraham Hospital, Duncan Dallas

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012