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How The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was compiled


Are we heading to a Malthusian catastrophe?
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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Death, death, every day people are blown up, but then every day people are dying of starvation. The nightmare which came to Malthus at the end of the 18th century and which stimulated Darwin, I think the Malthusian, or Malthusian, I don’t know how to pronounce it, the Malthusian nightmare is... is much closer. Not only are we running out of resources of every sort, but we are... we are fouling the planet and our own bodies with wastes of every sort. There’s no part of the planet which is not radioactive, and there’s no part of the ocean that doesn’t have human dirt in it – plastic, whatnot. The... and while I like to think I’m entering some of the personal serenity of old age, I... I am anguished at some of the things going on in the world, and though I am unmarried and childless, I... I wonder what we are imposing on our children and grandchildren and the generations to come, they won’t be grateful to us.

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: Malthusian catastrophe, Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin

Duration: 1 minute, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012