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A tribute to Richard Gregory


Richard Gregory's illusions
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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You can’t see how the… a human being, an animal, the brain, the organic machine works, as it does normally in health. It’s seamless, you can’t break in anywhere. There are various ways of breaking in. Of course, the... the physiologist sort of isolates an organ or puts in an electrode, the clinician, the neurologist, looks at an experiment of nature, something which is knocked out or activating a particular system. For Richard, the portal to understanding, was illusions, and he really showed that illusions made a major… was a major way of understanding all sorts of neurological functions, especially perceptual, especially visual functions. And he... he was endlessly inventive with... with illusions. He also sent one Christmas cards which were often full of illusions or... or they were stereo Christmas cards, or... or they had random dot stereograms.

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: Richard Gregory

Duration: 1 minute, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012