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My mother's influence on my storytelling style


Remembering every patient I've ever had
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I was asked... Dannie Abse... Dannie Abse, a poet doctor, was asked to edit a book called My Medical School. There had been My Oxford and My Cambridge. I was asked to contribute to My Medical School, and I wrote back and told him that I was afraid I didn’t have any memories. I said other people are probably full of affectionate and grateful memories of teachers, but I wasn’t. What I failed to say is that I remembered every patient I’d seen in hospital and in medical school. Indeed, I am exhuming one of them from... from 1958 in my present book. I’m not very good at... at book learning. I... I’m a hands-on person as my father was and I need to learn from the individual, and when I read in [Ludwig] Wittgenstein...  Wittgenstein says somewhere, a book should exist of examples. I like that. My books are chock-full of examples. They may be thin on generalisation or theory, I don’t know. I... so far as I’m concerned, one can’t have too many examples. No two people are the same.



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: My Medical School, My Oxford, My Cambridge, Dannie Abse, Ludwig Wittgenstein

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: 19-23 September, 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012