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Roald Hoffmann sends me a surprise parcel


Roald Hoffmann's lecture on the idea of The One Culture
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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Roald and I corresponded. At first it was ‘Professor Hoffmann’ and ‘Dr Sacks’, but very soon it was ‘Roald’ and ‘Oliver’. This was in... in great contrast to when I met Auden when he was ‘Mr Auden’ and I was ‘Dr Sacks’ for nearly two years, but we… that was the 1960s when we were both British, whereas here in the 1990s, and... things have changed. One... one gets to first names, I think actually, a little too quickly.


In '95, Roald came to New York to give a lecture. His title was The One Culture. And... and this was partly an attack on CP Snow’s notion of the two cultures, and Roald’s feeling, which he embodied strongly in himself because he was also a poet, an essayist, and a playwright, as well as a chemist, that there should be one culture, and that art and science were just different aspects of the one culture.

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: Roald Hoffmann, WH Auden, CP Snow

Duration: 1 minute, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012