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My paradoxical mother
Oliver Sacks Scientist
Next Views Duration
1. My paradoxical mother 1989 01:15
2. The old Devonian sandstone house I was born in 1065 01:03
3. One of my first memories is of a ceiling 785 01:06
4. The bedroom that was always mine 656 00:30
5. Needing my mother's kisses 728 00:33
6. Already prone to fantasy by the age of five 662 00:56
7. My 6-year-old feelings took a beating 687 03:43
8. The Jewish Fresh Air School for Delicate Children 664 00:57
9. Being caned at boarding school left its mark on me 1158 01:15
10. A childhood friend 645 00:31
11. Music was a youthful respite from boarding school 548 01:00
12. 'I remember how my ribs stuck out' 494 01:03
13. You could always trust a prime 528 01:01
14. Seeking stability 515 00:15
15. The things boarding school has taken from me 610 01:33
16. Difficulty with human bonding 637 00:37
17. Misinterpreting Christopher Rawlence's signals 563 00:26
18. My lack of 'belief' 576 01:07
19. My belief in science 508 01:06
20. 'I'm an old Jewish atheist' 678 00:57
21. Loving the rituals of Judaism 553 01:26
22. Personal and universal Judaism 482 01:28
23. 'I was supposed to be a girl' 500 00:39
24. 'The house was full of music' 402 01:29
25. Loving my father's job as a doctor 401 01:30
26. My father's love for music 369 00:42
27. My rather un-musical mother 359 00:39
28. The sights, smells and sounds of my parents' surgery 356 03:08
29. Bursting in on my parents' surgery 342 00:39
30. Discovering my mother's cranioclast 369 01:47
31. Joining my mother on her house calls 317 00:56
32. Sampling anaesthetics as a 10-year-old 341 01:06
33. My father's dispensary 308 00:42
34. My father's faithful secretary 320 01:01
35. My mother's career as a woman surgeon 402 03:37
36. Table conversation at home was all medical 315 01:26
37. 'Doctors are all prone to telling stories' 314 01:14
38. Remembering every patient I've ever had 362 01:41
39. My mother's influence on my storytelling style 317 01:59
40. What brought my mother to medicine? 325 00:24
41. Talking like I write and vice versa 332 01:41
42. Anecdote: Writing about Cold Storage 300 01:11
43. Being friends with Eric Korn 'before memory' 690 01:48
44. The first time I met Jonathan Miller 589 00:56
45. Forming a school literary society with Jonathan Miller and Eric Korn 407 02:03
46. Eric Korn's memory for poetry 388 00:25
47. Jonathan Miller's mimicry 407 00:33
48. The strange neural phenomena: heautoscopy 491 00:56
49. How to show gratitude to our biology teacher? 308 01:04
50. Little boys' hobbies 313 01:24
51. The cuttlefish story 319 03:15
52. Anti-Semitism in London and in school 306 01:21
53. Limiting the number of Jewish pupils in St Paul’s School 341 00:58
54. Anti-Semitism in mine and my parent's worlds 305 01:16
55. My excommunicated uncle 316 02:13
56. The types of books we had in the house 301 02:07
57. 'I hope the Alzheimer’s statistics are wrong' 347 00:25
58. Jonathan Miller's literacy and intellect 356 01:58
59. Haunting public libraries 273 01:12
60. Jonathan Miller's dealings with Alzheimer's disease 345 00:55
61. My hypochondriac imaginings 334 02:05
62. My self-destructive nature 390 00:47
63. Freud heard 'voices' 384 00:41
64. The indestructible individuality of chemistry 246 02:02
65. Uncle Tungsten's mentoring 251 00:26
66. My dangerous chemistry laboratory 224 00:48
67. Filling the house with hydrogen sulphide 208 00:45
68. 'My interest was chemistry and my education was public library' 242 00:39
69. My lifelong interest in swimming 643 01:42
70. The therapeutic effects of swimming 482 00:46
71. How I met the fabulous Kate Edgar 1035 02:38
72. The places I have swum 356 01:54
73. 'There isn't a week that I don't swim' 307 03:46
74. The size of my extended family 396 01:05
75. A family interest in chemistry and mineralogy 231 00:20
76. Abba Eban, my extraordinary cousin 562 02:41
77. My cousin: Robert J Aumann 431 01:17
78. 'A bit of a feeling against Israel' 938 00:25
79. My lack of intellectual self-confidence 539 03:52
80. My tenacity 345 00:26
81. Influences? 325 00:56
82. The length of my depression 807 00:35
83. The missing parts of Uncle Tungsten 319 00:27
84. What I regret about Oxford 495 00:33
85. An embarrassment to UCLA 457 02:11
86. Competitive weightlifting 830 00:29
87. My strength saves a patient from death 958 01:42
88. Jonathan, Eric and I were never meant to be scientists 341 00:29
89. My failure as a 'real' scientist 383 00:48
90. My missing book on myoclonus 271 02:04
91. My unpublished travel writing 234 01:11
92. Talking to Myself 315 00:12
93. Too shy to approach WH Auden 372 00:52
94. WH Auden's poems about doctors 379 00:58
95. WH Auden as my mentor 328 02:08
96. WH Auden's father 262 00:39
97. Regret over WH Auden's last days 316 00:27
98. Tea at WH Auden's: 'After work but before the drinking' 477 01:53
99. Writing a posthumous tribute to WH Auden 256 01:05
100. A recollection of Talking to Myself by WH Auden 358 00:53
101. Difficulty with reading poetry 262 01:18
102. Love of photography as a boy 208 01:23
103. Photography at UCLA 204 02:19
104. Photography in neurology 201 01:19
105. Photography, migraines and neurology 204 01:13
106. Did I really have that bad a time in Oxford and California? 235 01:32
107. My US motorbike travel journal 238 00:23
108. My travel journals and experiences 242 02:00
109. Seeing the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs 199 00:42
110. Writing and weightlifting in California 237 01:03
111. Jim Hamilton: My great friend 223 01:13
112. The beginning of my interest in neurology and case histories 197 01:51
113. Sleeping on fungus in the Central Valley 175 01:30
114. Working to fund my travelling around the USA 170 00:31
115. Work with Feinstein and Levin on Parkinson's disease 175 01:24
116. Announcing myself to the world of neurology 178 02:26
117. My first real interactions with patients 175 02:19
118. 'Arnold Friedman took a shine to me' 176 00:36
119. Arnold Friedman's strange turn 250 02:41
120. The final writing of Migraine 237 06:00
121. The blissful feeling having written Migraine 186 01:11
122. Wanting to publish addendums to Migraine 162 02:11
123. The publishing of Migraine 171 02:20
124. Starting to see the Awakenings patients 211 00:46
125. The use of L-DOPA in the Awakenings patients 313 01:46
126. Positive reviews for Migraine 167 01:26
127. Drafting books on 'tics', sub-cortical functions and Awakenings 163 01:28
128. Responding to Luria's work on higher cortical functions 166 01:03
129. Letters to the editors of 'The Lancet' and 'JAMA' 150 04:07
130. Encouragement from James Purdon Martin 202 00:56
131. Writing, dictating, the last of the Awakenings case histories 193 02:37
132. The death of my mother 247 03:08
133. Additions to Awakenings 172 03:04
134. Awakenings proof and WH Auden's compulsions 175 02:37
135. Awakenings: not a murmur from the medical press 156 03:05
136. The dangers of publishing 160 00:32
137. 'Is this your medical discretion?' 151 01:45
138. How the patients of Awakenings felt 333 02:14
139. The only changes to Awakenings for the disgruntled patient 185 00:18
140. Approached by Duncan Dallas of Yorkshire TV 223 01:15
141. Reasons for agreeing to Awakenings documentary 200 01:43
142. Success of Awakenings documentary 367 00:38
143. 'Witty Ticcy Ray' 490 01:38
144. My new interest in Tourette’s syndrome 344 02:12
145. My dream: The Tourette’s Syndrome Society 191 01:25
146. Working on Ward 23 with autistic, psychotic and retarded patients 272 02:56
147. 'Therapeutic punishment' 191 01:53
148. Appetitive and consummatory states 168 02:10
149. The accidents in Norway 219 03:50
150. Inspecting my grotesquely broken leg 180 03:17
151. The memories and moods I had whilst rescuing myself 183 02:12
152. A Leg to Stand On 297 01:37
153. Not quite a full recovery from my leg injury 181 01:23
154. Why it took me nine years to write A Leg to Stand On 161 01:36
155. The death of medical case histories 181 01:28
156. I thought Alexander Luria had done it all 358 01:36
157. The influence of Alexander Luria upon Awakenings 347 01:20
158. Richard Gregory's review and receiving letters from Luria 175 02:18
159. Luria's conciseness 204 01:31
160. A Leg to Stand On: release and reviews 194 02:42
161. Jerome S Bruner's review of A Leg to Stand On gave me back my confidence 150 00:42
162. 'The Scientist as poet' – Lewis Thomas 206 01:08
163. 'The Lewis Thomas crisis' 194 01:26
164. Another accident 150 03:02
165. Learning to be a concise writer 164 01:07
166. The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat on the radio 164 00:37
167. Being approached to make a film about Awakenings 164 02:45
168. Robert De Niro and Robin Williams visit me for Awakenings 666 04:20
169. Robert De Niro's acting style for Awakenings 291 01:43
170. Putting on weight on the set of Awakenings 202 01:12
171. My sneeze that cost $10k 243 00:47
172. De Niro visits the post-encephalitic patients 371 03:00
173. My satisfaction at the Awakenings film 264 02:02
174. Playing myself in a radio play of Awakenings 152 01:21
175. Pinter, the creative process and refusing a play 189 03:42
176. Judi Dench's portrayal in A Kind of Alaska 294 01:22
177. Tom Conti's quadriplegic in Whose Life is it Anyway? 156 01:23
178. Is it possible for actors to play people with neurological disorders? 145 05:37
179. A 60-page plagiarism of Migraine 166 01:17
180. An opera based on The Twins 124 04:26
181. The case of the colour-blind painter 466 06:38
182. Ralph Siegel 192 01:31
183. Collaboration with Ralph Siegel and Bob Wasserman 171 01:52
184. How the colour-blind painter saw the world 747 01:57
185. Colour blindness, Isaacson and achromatopsia in Pingelap 266 06:20
186. Ralph Siegel's interesting work 143 02:10
187. Isolation, feeling unique and visual neuroscience 177 05:13
188. Gerald Edelman's work: reinventions and Neural Darwinism 366 05:41
189. Gerald Edelman's theory of neural Darwinism 409 01:52
190. Where is the individual amongst analogies for the brain? 214 01:57
191. Supplying clinical data to the great theorists 182 00:58
192. My interest in the deaf and Martha's Vineyard 315 03:21
193. The subculture of people who are deaf 205 03:33
194. What happens to the brains of deaf people? 390 03:42
195. Kate Edgar 229 02:15
196. 'The longest running psychoanalysis on record' 4865 04:43
197. Being approached by Bob Silvers 241 02:25
198. The written style of Witty Ticcy Ray 203 01:00
199. My time at the Blue Mountain Center for writers 196 03:07
200. Norman Geschwind and Orrin Devinsky 308 02:31
201. Isaacson's artwork appears in colour in The New York Review of Books 132 01:36
202. Marching with the Deaf and Tourette’s society 116 04:10
203. Articles on deaf people for Bob Silvers become a book 106 00:45
204. Occasionally writing for The New Yorker 142 00:58
205. Writing about the 'oldest conductor': David Randolph 120 02:34
206. I am old-fashioned 235 00:38
207. John Bennet, my editor at The New Yorker 293 00:35
208. Bob Silvers: the most scrupulous editor 145 01:02
209. You are famous now: the success of 'Hat' and 'Awakenings' 114 03:02
210. Writing for the academic journals 286 03:40
211. Filling in for Stephen Jay Gould in Natural History 160 03:00
212. How I got to know Stephen Jay Gould 242 04:22
213. My friendship with Stephen Jay Gould 231 02:03
214. My birthday presents from Stephen Jay Gould 187 00:57
215. Stephen Jay Gould arranges my 'elements' birthday party 163 01:30
216. Stephen Jay Gould's brush with death 182 01:34
217. Stephen Jay Gould's ominous article 260 01:12
218. Stephen Jay Gould's unhappy diagnosis 217 01:17
219. Stephen Jay Gould's magnum opus 244 00:45
220. Stephen Jay Gould's last days 287 01:38
221. My grandfather's history 159 02:19
222. My mother's forbears 162 01:47
223. Taking my name from my grandfather 174 01:29
224. My father, his siblings, Aubrey Eban and Zionism 212 05:11
225. Aubrey Eban's achievements 134 02:29
226. The Kaplans - Al Capp's family 213 01:18
227. Al Capp's political life 186 02:09
228. Al Capps' wooden leg 157 00:59
229. Extreme old age, enjoying old age and working in nursing homes 248 06:50
230. 'I'm an aggressive atheist' 785 02:03
231. My views on religion in politics 490 01:17
232. 'Sympathetic to the mystical' 255 00:30
233. Ralph Siegel's anger at dying an early death 278 01:57
234. 'That's the wrong X-ray, or I'm a dead man' 197 02:59
235. Thinking of Schubert's early death 186 00:58
236. The thoughts of Heinrich Hertz on his early death 164 01:25
237. The tragic death of young and gifted soldiers 200 01:05
238. Are we heading to a Malthusian catastrophe? 231 01:42
239. How The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was compiled 210 02:54
240. The man who 'regained' his lost sense of smell 316 01:58
241. 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat': A strange assemblage of pieces 169 01:58
242. Letters after The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat about musical hallucinations 129 01:58
243. The rich harvest of human stories for Musicophilia 111 01:03
244. Congenital face blindness in The Mind's Eye 125 02:55
245. After The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: The deaf, Touretters and blindness 124 02:31
246. Franco Magnani: The memory artist 773 04:15
247. The artist, Stephen Wiltshire 511 04:53
248. The World's Only Flying Touretter Surgeon 396 05:04
249. Uta Frith recommends I meet Temple Grandin 157 03:52
250. Temple Grandin, an American hero? 225 01:13
251. Amnesic Gary 109 07:27
252. Naming the book An Anthropologist on Mars 180 01:13
253. Glad to be - roughly - healthy at an old age 155 03:34
254. Hoping my work has helped others 108 00:25
255. The offer of a remote neurological adventure 106 02:18
256. Arriving in Guam: Are the cycads responsible for Lytico-bodig disease? 204 01:19
257. The epicentre of the Lytico-Bodig disease 178 03:42
258. First finding out about the colour blindness of Pingelap 121 02:01
259. The Island of the Colourblind 107 01:59
260. Buying a house while swimming round City Island 467 02:41
261. Moving from City Island to Manhattan 568 01:17
262. Swimming in Lake Titicaca 216 01:43
263. Falling in love with Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron 153 02:54
264. Writing about my two other main interests: chemistry and museums 118 05:12
265. Roald Hoffmann's Chemistry Imagined 159 01:46
266. Roald Hoffmann's lecture on the idea of The One Culture 165 01:11
267. Roald Hoffmann sends me a surprise parcel 111 04:09
268. Brilliant Light and The American Fern Society 114 03:11
269. A Mexican flight like no other 100 01:14
270. The Oaxaca Journal 132 01:59
271. The second half of Uncle Tungsten: inspiration and writing 103 03:11
272. Uncle Tungsten: I want my work delivered in full, not in excerpts 98 01:30
273. My handsome mug 163 01:10
274. My love of Kew Gardens 130 01:10
275. The Sense of Movement by Thom Gunn 217 02:08
276. Thom Gunn's comments on my writing style 160 01:44
277. A scary first experience of steep Filbert Street, San Francisco 124 01:14
278. My last meeting with Thom Gunn and his death 336 03:59
279. Thom Gunn's unique style of poetry 196 01:34
280. Thom Gunn was an excellent teacher 154 00:53
281. I miss my dear friend, Thom Gunn 158 00:53
282. Jerome Bruner, the 'Cognitive Revolution' and behaviourism 309 02:58
283. Jerome Bruner's expansive mind 118 01:23
284. Jerome Bruner: one of many implicit mentors 105 00:37
285. Jerome Bruner's physical strength 114 00:44
286. Jerome Bruner, born with cataracts 102 00:26
287. How could Jerome Bruner see ultraviolet light? 134 01:56
288. Recognition of Jerome Bruner's work 104 00:33
289. Meeting F Robert Rodman at UCLA 99 01:37
290. Distance couldn't spoil my friendship with F Robert Rodman 90 01:07
291. Not Dying by F Robert Rodman 132 01:10
292. F Robert Rodman's influences, family and death 123 01:10
293. Love of HG Wells and using Country of the Blind 101 04:23
294. Using HG Wells's stories in my own work 81 02:02
295. HG Wells' portrayal of Neanderthals 101 00:39
296. HG Wells' visions of the future 97 00:41
297. Stalking HG Wells? 123 00:50
298. HG Wells’ and Olaf Stapledon's work and their influence on me 161 01:58
299. Wells versus Stapledon; Owen versus Darwin 122 01:52
300. Science fiction, Star Trek and meeting Mr Spock 379 02:27
301. My love of scientific exploration books 114 02:43
302. Anything better than Star Trek? 157 00:21
303. Quoting 'Childhood's End' in 'Musicophilia' 81 02:31
304. Stories associated with chemical elements 109 03:04
305. Which direction to take after 'Uncle Tungsten' and 'Oaxaca Journal'? 75 00:47
306. The case of Lilian Kallir: musical alexia 449 03:35
307. An aphasia case: Patricia 478 03:38
308. How I first met 'Stereo Sue' 126 04:54
309. 'Stereo Sue' acquires stereoscopic vision at the age of 50 177 03:56
310. The publication of Stereo Sue 88 01:06
311. 'Take the eye if you must, but leave the rest of me alone' 136 06:58
312. The profoundest case of amnesia ever seen 522 02:40
313. How Musicophilia expanded 110 02:51
314. The two pieces from 'Musicophilia' in the 'New Yorker' 84 01:55
315. Reception to Musicophilia 80 01:33
316. The piano is important once more in my life 512 03:08
317. 'I have no excuse not to practise the piano!' 304 02:11
318. The events that led up to The Mind's Eye 95 04:52
319. Pulling together all the stories for The Mind's Eye 75 03:20
320. The final compilation for The Mind's Eye 73 02:35
321. Being close to 'Stereo Sue' and Howard Engel 72 00:47
322. Finishing up the hallucinations book 80 02:11
323. My books to date 87 02:07
324. My first encounter with evolution 128 02:07
325. Seeing the deep past in plants 121 00:49
326. Marie Stopes' Ancient Plants 114 02:06
327. Marie Stopes' botanical work and its influence on me 99 04:25
328. Feeling at home with Darwin 94 02:59
329. The origin of individuals: Gerald Edelman and Darwin 97 03:01
330. The Bloomsbury Group 115 01:06
331. Darwin's illness and Down House 143 01:06
332. Darwin's reflections on his own character 166 01:15
333. Darwin: 'a very beloved figure' 120 02:17
334. Darwin's residence in Down House 230 01:48
335. Scientific correspondence: a comparison between Darwin and myself 97 01:04
336. William James: foundational figure for neurology and psychology 667 02:10
337. William James' sensitivity to religious experiences 529 01:22
338. William James: 'The Adorable Genius' 496 02:11
339. Enjoying getting to sleep 224 02:42
340. First meeting Richard Gregory 106 01:04
341. Correspondence and 2am phone calls with Richard Gregory 124 01:04
342. Richard Gregory's Exploratory 94 01:04
343. Richard Gregory's illusions 107 01:09
344. A tribute to Richard Gregory 106 03:01
345. Studs Terkel 121 02:59
346. Believing in angels 180 01:05
347. How would I describe my character? 227 01:00
348. Self-portraiture 201 00:24
349. Experiencing my brother's teenage schizophrenia 607 01:21
350. My brother's life with schizophrenia and treatment for it 1086 03:53
351. Does the treatment of schizophrenics alter onset of schizophrenia? 523 03:49
352. Over-investment in medical models of schizophrenia 351 02:20
353. The need for love 569 02:08
354. Loving and being 'in love' 642 01:26
355. 'Perhaps it's more important to love than be loved' 471 01:18
356. Drug episodes in Hallucinations 302 00:46
357. My craziest hallucination 331 02:05
358. The 'academic spider' hallucination 293 01:09
359. The story of Migraine and amphetamines 313 04:54
360. 'I am just a chronicler and a describer' 211 01:06

Many years ago, I took a manuscript of my first book to an editor at Faber & Faber. I said, 'Nice to meet you,' and she said, 'We’ve met before'. And I said, 'I don’t remember it'. And she said, 'No, you wouldn’t. It was like this’, she said, 'I was training to be a nurse, and your mother was one of our lecturers at the Royal Free Hospital, and she was giving a talk on breastfeeding. And after a while she said, ‘There’s nothing difficult or embarrassing about breastfeeding’ and she bent down, picked up a baby, which had been concealed, and fed it in front of the class'. She said, 'This was in September of 1933, and you were the baby'. I was amazed at the story, because my mother was a very shy woman, pathologically shy, but she could be quite a ham in performance, and it’s similar with 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: Royal Free Hospital

Duration: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: 19-23 September, 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012

Comments (1) Please sign in or register to add comments
Oudtshoorn
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 05:39 AM
I love these stories even though I have read them in the books of Oliver Sacks. Seeing and...
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I love these stories even though I have read them in the books of Oliver Sacks. Seeing and listening to him make me feel he is still alive. I have never before felt the loss of a public figure in the way that I’ve mourned the death of this remarkable man.