Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, CBE ( born July 9, 1933, London, England ) is a British neurologist and writer best known for his popular science books in which he describes, in general complex diseases using case studies in a casually anecdotal style. His goal is not to lose besides the modern science to the people involved from the point of view to recognize the individual fate behind each disease and to make their own normality in question.

Together with the Russian neuropsychologist Alexander R. Luria, he draws on the medical and literary tradition of the 19th century that the sick person has asked the scientific view in the center. Luria called this a " romantic " science.


Oliver Sacks' mother practiced as a surgeon, and his father was a General Practitioner. His three brothers were also doctors. After attending St. Paul 's School in London, he studied medicine at Queen 's College, Oxford. After some neurophysiological research, he moved in 1960 to the USA. After two years as an internist at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, he conducted research from 1962 to 1965 at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1965 he was appointed professor of clinical neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

During his research on migraine he met in 1966 at Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx between some patients who had been around for about 40 years, " frozen" as: Survivors of the European sleeping sickness ( encephalitis lethargica ), a worldwide epidemic from 1916 to 1927 after. completion of the migraine studies, which he published in 1970, he devoted himself to the patient group intensive. The individual case studies were the subject of his book Awakenings ( Awakenings ). In the course of the experiments with L- dopa, a precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine, there was extraordinary reactions of the patient: the " monitored " in the short term, partly showed even a overmotivated joy of life, until she finally fell back into their rigid. Some of the case histories themed first Harold Pinter play A Kind of Alaska, before being made ​​into a film in 1990 under the title Awakenings, inter alia, with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. This made Oliver Sacks popular worldwide, and many of his published books in the meantime had a great demand.

In addition to other stories about other neurological cases such as Parkinson's disease, Tourette's syndrome, autism, agnosia and deafness, he described in The day my leg went away and the consequences of its own hiking accident. Apparently, crack him exclusively the string of anterior thigh muscle ( quadriceps ), for a long time he lived (mostly ) in the patient's perspective.

His bestselling book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells how the various disorders and diseases that affect the daily lives of patients and affected relatives. The cover story in 1987, the subject of the eponymous opera by Michael Nyman. Oliver Sacks tells in the book twenty stories of people who have fallen out of the " normality". The book is written so that it is understandable for everyone, even if you have never been involved in medicine, neurology or psychiatry. It is hardly to medical pages, more about the world in which these people live. The book makes clear how perception dependent solely on the brain - reality takes place in the head. For "normal" example, it is inconceivable that a man can his wife be confused with a hat. For example, the patient may look things, but they can not call it by its name, for example, identifies a rose as " red, folded structure with a straight green appendage ". The sometimes funny, sometimes sad stories the same time show what the human brain is capable of, how fast you can lose its "reality" and what constitutes the personality eventually.

Sacks' works have been translated into 21 languages. He was awarded the Wingate Literary Prize 2002.

Currently, Oliver Sacks lives in New York City, where he maintains a private medical practice.

At the beginning of the fall semester 2007, he accepted an appointment at Columbia University. There he taught not only as physicians, but also in several other fields, including music theory.


  • Migraine (1970), ISBN 3-499-19963-7.
  • The man who mistook his Wife for a Hat (1985 ), ISBN 3-499-18780-9.
  • Seeing Voices (1989 ), ISBN 3-499-19198-9.
  • The day when my leg went away (1989 ), ISBN 3-499-18884-8.
  • Awakenings: Awakenings (1990 ), ISBN 3-499-18878-3.
  • An Anthropologist on Mars (1995 ), ISBN 3-499-60242-3. ( seven additional case histories, including over the landscape painter of Pontito ( in Pescia), the Architektur-/Tierwissenschafts-Professorin Temple Grandin )
  • The island of the color-blind (The Iceland of the Colour - blind ) (1997 ), ISBN 3-499-60560-0 (see Pingelap )
  • Uncle Tungsten (2001), ISBN 3-498-06352-9. ( Memoirs of childhood and youth of the author until 1956, interspersed with episodes from the history of chemistry, the operation of the juvenile Sacks with enthusiasm )
  • The fine New York Farngesellschaft. A trip to Mexico (2004), ISBN 3-89405-480-8.
  • Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007). German: The one-armed pianist. About music and the brain. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2008, ISBN 978-3-498-06376-4.
  • German: The inner eye. New case histories. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2011, ISBN 978-3-498-06408-2.
  • German: dragons and demons alike. About people with hallucinations. Random House, Reinbek, 2013, ISBN 978-3-498-06420-4.