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Personal and universal Judaism


Loving the rituals of Judaism
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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Freeman Dyson... wrote an article about [John] Polkinghorne... I think Polkinghorne is a physicist at Cambridge who later took holy orders and... and has introduced demiurges and divinity into quantum mechanics... and I think Freeman is upset about this and... anyhow, he said of himself in that article, he said, 'I am a practising Christian, but not a believing one'. And I... I liked that very much. I miss the practice of Judaism quite a bit. I used to enjoy many of the rituals in the synagogue and at home. I especially love the rituals on the high festivals, the Seder table laden with... with everything and the open doors so two or three strangers always came in on a Seder night. I love the Sukkot, the house in the garden with the... the roof hung with fruit and flowers.

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: Cambridge University, Seder, Sukkot, Freeman Dyson, John Polkinghorne

Duration: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: 19-23 September, 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012