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NEXT STORY

A childhood friend

RELATED STORIES

Being caned at boarding school left its mark on me
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I think the school [Brafield]was probably badly, and in a way perhaps rather cruelly, run. The headmaster had been a schoolmaster at my brother Michael's school in London, and... where he enjoyed the reputation of being a genial man and an excellent teacher. I think the position of being headmaster of this strange, improvised school in the country must’ve been hard on him and brought out another side. It seemed to me that I was always being beaten. The cane was very much in evidence. Whether this was pathology on his side or merely a fine old English tradition, you know, the Rugby tradition, I don’t know, but I think this left... left its mark on me.

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: London, Brafield on-the-Green

Duration: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: 19-23 September, 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012