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Franco Magnani: The memory artist


After The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: The deaf, Touretters and blindness
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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After the Hat book the... I moved for part of my life into a quite different mode, and this was the world of the deaf and sign language and meeting deaf people all over, in fact all over the world, and writing Seeing Voices.

This... this was also a time when I became very interested in what it was like to have Tourette’s syndrome in different communities and different circumstances, and with my Tourettic friend, Lowell, I went round the States visiting families where there were Tourettic children or Tourettic parents, and spending quite a lot of time up in Northern Alberta in a Mennonite community which had a very high incidence of Tourette’s and which indeed is called, jokingly, Touretteville by those who know about it. But... but alas the Tourette book, one way and another, never came to fruition, has never come to fruition, and I’ve written many scattered pieces on Tourette’s, but... but alas the book I once envisioned has not come about.

But I was beginning, after Hat, also to get calls from people who had major problems, seeking clarification. The first of them was the painter with sudden total colour blindness who visited me in '86. And there were others, there was the man in Atlanta who had been born blind and then given vision, but couldn’t make sense of the world. Who was... he had a total acquired agnosia.

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, Seeing Voices, Tourette’s Sydrome, Mennonite, LaCrete, Alberta, Isaacson, Atlanta, Lowell Handler

Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012