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My father's love for music


Loving my father's job as a doctor
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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When I came back to London when I was 10, I would sometimes accompany my father on house calls and I loved that. I... I would always be invited into the house. My father might go upstairs to the patient or sometimes I might see him examining a patient. I loved to see him percuss the chest and listen to the heart. Sometimes he used a stethoscope, sometimes he just put his ear against the chest. I think he may have already then been grooming me a little bit to become a doctor myself and he laid great stress on using all the senses. When he was young he had a very good nose, a very acute sense of smell and he would... he would, sort of smell diabetic urine or urine with a trace of acetone in it a hundred yards away. He had an acute diagnostic nose, but he... he would always say to me, don’t depend on X-rays, even don’t depend on a stethoscope, you must... but... but sometimes if there was a delay or sometimes he might just sit in a car and look at a musical score.

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: London

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: 19-23 September, 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012