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Amnesic Gary


Temple Grandin, an American hero?
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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When I had visited Uta Frith we talked mostly about Stephen and other savants. Uta Frith’s own work and that of her colleagues was especially to do with autistic savants. Though, of course, there were these other people. I think Uta felt that I should see someone with what then was beginning to be called Asperger syndrome, just to see that not everyone was like Stephen, perhaps this might make a footnote to the Stephen piece. But, of course, when I met Temple she needed a piece and a grand piece all to herself. I remember when I took that piece to The New Yorker the then editor, Tina Brown, said, 'This will be an American hero, an American heroine'. And I think to a considerable extent this has been the case; Temple has written many other books.  She’s been around and there’s even been a... a feature film about her, a very good film.


So, then these are six people whom I had, as it were, made extended house calls on.  My father loved house calls. When he was... when he was 70 he retired but he was back to work in 24 hours. When he was 80 he retired but he was back to work in 48 hours. When he was 90 we said, look, at least give up the house calls. And he said, 'No, I'll give up everything else but I'll keep the house calls'. My father felt that house calls, seeing people in their own environment was crucially important and you could find all sorts of things which you would never see in the surgery, in the clinic, in a hospital. And for myself, my visits to the colour-blind artist and... and the other five people I’ve mentioned, these were all extended house calls.

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: Asperger syndrome, Uta Frith, Temple Grandin, Stephen Wiltshire

Duration: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012