Neurologist, author Oliver Sacks dies at age 82

Sun Aug 30, 2015 2:12pm EDT
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By Bill Trott

(Reuters) - Oliver Sacks, the neurologist who studied the intricacies of the brain and wrote eloquently about them in books such as "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," died on Sunday at the age of 82, his personal assistant said.

The British-born Sacks, who announced in February that he had terminal liver cancer, died at his home in New York City at 1:30 a.m. with his partner, the writer Billy Hayes, and his personal assistant, Kate Edgar, at his side, Edgar told Reuters.

"He definitely wrote to the very end," said Edgar, noting Sacks in his final days never stopped penning a legacy that will be published posthumously and may include "several books."

NYU School of Medicine, where Sacks taught, said in a statement mourning his death that his "breakthrough work" in the fields of neurology and neuro psychiatry led to important understandings in these fields.

"Equally important, his prolific, award-winning writing touched the lives of millions around the world," NYU said.

Sacks was called "a kind of poet laureate of medicine" and "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century" by the New York Times.

Using a typewriter or writing in longhand, Sacks authored more than a dozen books, filling them with detailed, years-long case histories of patients who often became his friends. He explained to lay readers how the brain handles everything from autism to savantism, colorblindness to Tourette's syndrome, and how his patients could adapt to their unconventional minds.

Sacks' view, as expressed in his 1995 book "An Anthropologist on Mars," was that such disorders also came with a potential that could bring out "latent powers, developments, evolutions, forms of life that might never be seen, or even be imaginable."   Continued...