a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Richard Gregory's review and receiving letters from Luria


The influence of Alexander Luria upon Awakenings
Oliver Sacks Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

In 1968, a book of Luria’s came out called The Mind of a Mnemonist. I read the first 30 pages of this thinking it was a novel, a rather Turgenev-like novel. I’m particularly fond of Turgenev because of the richness of detail, and then I realised that it was a case history, but the most detailed and deep case history I’d ever read, but a case history with all the dramatic power and the pathos and the feeling of a novel. It seemed to me perfect of its kind, and it, on the one hand, and Auden, on the other hand, allowed me to give Awakenings the shape it had. I... I think I could not have written Awakenings without the exemplar of Luria and the... and encouragement of Auden who said, ‘You must... you must broaden, you must use a much larger palette and one of which some of your scientific colleagues may disapprove’.

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: The Mind of a Mnemonist, Awakenings, Alexander Romanovich Luria, Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, WH Auden

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012