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Stephen Jay Gould's magnum opus


Stephen Jay Gould's unhappy diagnosis
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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An article which... which, in retrospect, I couldn’t help thinking had something ominous or premonitory about it, although Stephen appeared in his usual health and spirits. But, shortly after this, at a routine medical examination he was found to have a cancer in the chest with metastases to the brain and the lungs – stage four cancer of a particularly malignant sort.  He was determined to complete what work he could. The two metastases in the brain were removed and he continued to do his classes at Harvard. At that time, you know, because he’d had brain surgery on both sides they left just a central ridge of hair, like a sort of... like an Indian chief. I believe that style of hair has a special name, and the only concession he made to illness was that he would sit instead of standing.

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: Stephen Jay Gould

Duration: 1 minute, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012