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The man who 'regained' his lost sense of smell


How The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was compiled
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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With my first three books, with Migraine and Awakenings and Leg, these were conceived as books, even though sections are… the Migraine came out of a single rush. The other books to some extent were written in sections, but... but with a sense of the whole there, whereas starting in 1981, I started to publish individual pieces, case histories of Witty Ticcy Ray, of the man who mistook his wife for a hat, of the amnesic mariner, The Lost Mariner, of the old ladies with musical hallucinations, with at first no notion that... that these could come together in any way. But – and I think I may have owed this considerably to you, Kate, and also to Jim Silberman, who detected or felt there was a sort of unity, at least of... of tone and feeling, if not of theme, which... which could, and should, bring these pieces together as a book, a collection, and one could open the book at any place, and yet, perhaps a certain vision of patients, of the brain and of physicianhood, and the relation of doctors and patients could all come together.

And I think this was not, as I say, a feeling I had myself at first, but I then warmed to the feeling, although I continued, especially in the latter part of 1984 after I’d got over the... the depression produced by a hateful review of the Leg book, and warmed by a wonderful review of the Leg book by... by Jerry Bruner, and then I wrote several more pieces, although not... although not explicitly thinking of a book, but just multiplying pieces.

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 Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, A Leg to Stand On, Awakenings, Migraine, Witty Ticcy Ray, The Lost Mariner, Kate Edgar, Jim Silberman

Duration: 2 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012