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Love of HG Wells and using Country of the Blind


F Robert Rodman's influences, family and death
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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Bob was... Bob’s idol was Winnicott, Donald Winnicott, the great analyst in England, and Winnicott was much more than an analyst and was really much more human than most analysts. It was Winnicott who used phrases like 'a good enough mother'. It was Winnicott who was the first analyst, really, the first psychiatrist to pay attention to play. Freud had never really written about play, or transitional objects. Bob had met Winnicott several times, and after Winnicott’s death, he was to become Winnicott’s biographer. And he did finally, after many years’ work, probably 15 years, he put together a magnificent volume, a magnificent biography of Winnicott, but those 15 years, I think, were subtracted from what he might have been writing himself. He was a very, very good clinician and he wrote very beautifully of his patients. Some of his clinical writing was published, but not enough. I speak in the past tense because Bob died, in a way which shouldn’t have happened a few years ago. And when he died, he left a treasure of assorted manuscripts. One book was published posthumously, but... but the rest is, I fear, maybe in limbo. And the business of having a voice and having some effect, it... which matters intensely to me, and it mattered no less to Bob. And it doesn’t just matter to me, you know, in a sort of narcissistic way; I like to think when I am gone, I will have said some interesting things about other lives and other people. And... and Bob Rodman certainly felt the same thing. And... I’m not giving an adequate picture of his life. He remarried, there were many children, and sometimes I would join the family, almost as an honorary member. There was one such time in Hawaii. I was very close to Bob and his second wife and all the children, one calls them children. The youngest one is a godson of mine, and Nick was only 16 or 17 when he heard an awful noise one night, rushed into his parents’ bedroom and saw his father convulsing and then falling on the floor with a... what proved to be a catastrophic cerebral haemorrhage. A cerebral haemorrhage which happened, I think, because the anticoagulants he was taking after some heart surgery were not properly monitored. I’ve had a horror of anticoagulants since that time, and if I go on anticoagulants, I have my blood tested every... every five minutes.

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: UK, Hawaii, F Robert Rodman, Donald Winnicott, Sigmund Freud

Duration: 1 minute, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012