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'Sympathetic to the mystical'


My views on religion in politics
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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In public I’ve gone no further than to say that I’m very uncomfortable about the intrusion of religion into politics, education, medicine – the suppression of stem cell research and so much other research. I think of all my Parkinsonian patients who... and others who need and are longing for some sort of breakthrough with stem cell research, a breakthrough which will probably happen but which has certainly been retarded by policies here in the last 10 years. But I’ve... I've had some periods of, I don’t know what to call it, serene... serene and sublime and perhaps mystical at-oneness myself. I’m more likely to get these in the country than the city. Solitude and nature direct my thoughts away from the... the irritating stimulating human bustle of the 21st century and of New York City in particular.

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: New York, Parkinson's disease

Duration: 1 minute, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012