a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


'I hope the Alzheimer’s statistics are wrong'


The types of books we had in the house
Oliver Sacks Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Yes, we... we had a library which had... which had been designed as a library; there were a lot of books in the house, but neither of my parents were particularly bookish people although they had met at a medical students’ Ibsen Society, and they both loved Ibsen, and they would always go to the theatre together on Thursdays.  But I don’t think they were – my father was a Hebrew scholar, and there were many, many Hebrew books – and a lot of medical books, these also were in the cabinet in the surgery, and these also fascinated me and horrified me somewhat.

I particularly remember, I think I was just come back from London – I particularly remember I’d just come back to London, I was 10 or so, maybe 11 – I pulled out a book called French’s [Index of] Differential Diagnosis, and when I opened it I was struck by a picture of a tiny bald creature who was 10 years old, and it said: this is progeria, or premature ageing, and that in childhood or adolescence the hair will fall out, the... the nose will become beak-like, the muscles will fall away, and the person will look as if they’re 200 years old. And I was terrified by the notion that progeria was waiting for me. Now other people might get chicken pox, or even cancer, but I would get progeria. I’ve in fact sort of continued to be anxious about... about premature senility ever since.

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: French's Index of Differential Diagnosis, Henryk Ibsen

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012