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My love of scientific exploration books


Science fiction, Star Trek and meeting Mr Spock
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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My... my love of... of fantasy, in particular fantasy which takes off from existing science and existing humanity, remained with me into my 20s and 30s, and early 40s, and I had at one time…  this was before we met, Kate, but I had at one time an entire bookcase full of science fiction. I... I think I read, I don’t know, six science fiction novels a week. I fed on them. I was a voracious reader. I was very fond of Arthur Clarke, and Heinlein, and some of the older writers, and I became very fond of Star Trek when it appeared. It had characters. It had real characters one got to know, Spock, and... and Scotty, and beam... and beaming up, and actually, 25 years later I met Spock. It was rather nice meet... meeting him in the flesh. I think, however, that I slightly preferred the next generation to the original Star Trek, with Jean-Luc Picard, and of course, magnificently acted. One got to know them all.

I never missed a Star Trek, or very rarely.  I would put off important engagement – I don’t think there was easy recording at that time – and I’d put off important engagements because I needed to be by the television at 8 o’clock, and that was that. On one occasion, I went... when I was in Los Angeles I went to the studio, because I wanted to... and I met Brent Spiner, who was Data.  And I told him he... he was the icon of autistic people everywhere, and I think he looked rather puzzled and he wasn’t quite sure what... what to make of my comment, which was meant to be a high compliment. 

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: Star Trek, Spock, Jean-Luc Picard, Los Angeles, Data, Arthur C Clarke, Robert A Heinlein, Leonard Nimoy, Brent Spiner

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012